5 June 2013 — The absence of glass bottles in kerbsides collections due to a container deposit scheme allows improved compaction rates and less transport and labour costs without adversely affecting resource recovery, a South Australian study has found, calling into question the results of a Victorian study that said the schemes would cost local councils money.

However, the study found that while the higher compaction setting was suitable for council and contractors in SA, it was not considered suitable for other states where deposit schemes for beverage containers did not exist.

The study, Optimum Compaction Rate for Kerbside Recyclables, by APC Environmental Management, recommended that the results from this study not be adopted by other states owing to the differences in composition of the recycling stream.

The study found that all SA councils increasing compaction could adjust their runs and staffing to make some savings.

“Significant savings are only seen, however, where there is a significant enough reduction in runs to remove a vehicle or staff from the fleet,” the study found.

“This study found that the average percentage of rejected materials, which included contamination, non-recoverable recyclables, glass fines and paper fines, did not increase significantly as compaction rates of kerbside collected materials increased.

It also found that while glass containers account for 12 per cent to 19 per cent of the recycling stream in South Australia, in other states they account for as much as 26 per cent of the recycling mix – in some cases double that found in SA.

“In addition, the glass mix is very different in SA compared with other states. Beer bottles, which have been light-weighted over the years in the quest to use fewer raw materials, are part of the deposit system in SA and therefore only present in very small quantities in the kerbside recycling bins.

“Most glass containers tend to be heavier beverage containers such as wine and champagne (which are excluded from the deposit scheme) and condiment, sauce and coffee containers, while in other states the beer stubby is the major glass item found in recycling bins.

“Due to its lightweighted nature, it rarely makes its way through the collection and processing cycle intact.”

Boomerang Alliance national convenor Jeff Angel said the study backed up the findings of the last five government-initiated reports, that local councils would benefit by reduced collection costs.

“As well there is a significant increase in value of remnant material in kerbside because the bottles and cans each have a 10 cent deposit,” he said.

“Some members of the beverage and packaging industry have attempted a scare campaign saying that councils will be disadvantaged by a container deposit scheme.

“The study has important implications for the economic work being done for environment ministers who will soon decide whether to adopt a CDS.”

Mr Angel said it called into question the findings of a recent report by Equilibrium for Sustainability Victoria which said some Victorian metropolitan councils would be financially disadvantaged by a CDS.

That study had stated there could be no change in collection costs, he said.

“However the new data clearly shows this is wrong. It also omitted payments to materials recovery facilities made under the Boomerang model.

“Controversially, the Equilibrium report failed to include savings in sorting and processing in its primary findings. An appendix in this report did calculate such savings and found local councils would save a net $4.59 million per year.

“The beverage industry and their allies should stop disseminating misleading or incomplete analysis.

“The demand for a national CDS will not go away with such studies and the more there is a delay in a decision, the more industry will face the risk of multiple state-based schemes as Tasmanian now looks like being the next state to go it alone.”

The 2012 study, “The financial impacts of Container Deposit Legislation to local governments in Victoria”, assessed 37 Victorian councils’ current kerbside recycling arrangements and financials.

It was prepared for Sustainability Victoria in partnership with the Municipal Association of Victoria.

The study found that while regional and rural councils would make some savings, metropolitan councils would be at a financial loss.

Findings included:

  • The financial impacts of a CDS on local government is best examined on an individual council basis as the variety of waste management arrangements and systems means specific impacts will vary from council to council.
  • The financial impacts of a CDS on current kerbside recycling will vary significantly from council to council and there will be winners and losers.
  • The value of the materials in a kerbside recycling bin will increase 5 per cent with a CDS.
  • The volume of materials in kerbside recycling will decrease by 17 per cent with a CDS.
  • Councils paying for kerbside recycling materials to be sorted/processed will be better off with a CDS while those getting paid will be worse off.
  • Typically Victorian metropolitan councils receive a payment, rebate or discounted cost of waste management contracts reflecting the value of the recyclables in kerbside.
  • For kerbside recycling in Victoria local government as a whole and based on current arrangements there will be a cost/lost revenue of $285,500 per year in the short-term (years one to five), $556,900 in the medium-term (years five to 10) and $842,500 per year in the long-term (years 10 and beyond), totalling a cost/lost revenue of $12.6 million for the period of the Packaging Impacts Consultation Regulation Impact Statement 2015-2035 timeframe of 20 years.
  • For metropolitan local government as a group there would be a cost/lost revenue of $514,900 per year in the short-term, $1,004,400 per year in the medium-term and $1,519,600 per year in the long-term, totalling a cost/lost revenue of $22.8 million over 20 years.
  • For regional Victorian local government as a group there would be a benefit of $2500 per year in the short-term, $4900 per year in the medium-term and $7500 per year in the long-term through reduced sorting / processing costs, totalling a benefit of $112,300 over 20 years.
  • For rural Victorian local government as a group there would be a benefit of $226,900 per year in the short-term, $442,600 per year in the medium-term and $669,600 per year in the long-term through reduced sorting/processing costs, totalling a $10.0 million benefit over 20 years.
  • The potential savings for local government from litter reduction ranges from under $10,000 to more than $100,000 per grouping of councils per year depending on size, type of litter management system and volumes of litter.