With federal and state environment ministers meeting this month to discuss a 10-cent refund on bottles and cans, Total Environment Centre executive director Jeff Angel has spelt out what a container deposit scheme (CDS) might look like to councils.
While Queensland has declared it will not join such a scheme, the other states are open to persuasion after years of refusing. South Australia has had a CDS for 36 years.
In August, ministers agreed to prepare a regulatory impact statement on a CDS and to look at the model proposed by the Boomerang Alliance, a collection of 22 environmental groups.
The beverage industry has been trying to scuttle the scheme, calling it a ''tax'' and legally challenging the new container deposit scheme in the Northern Territory.
Australians use 13 billion containers a year but only 40 per cent are recycled. The rest become litter or landfill.
Speaking to Newcastle City Council, Mr Angel said the container deposit model developed by the Boomerang Alliance would put 1800 automated reverse vending machines in shopping centre car parks around Australia. These machines would accept glass, aluminium, steel and plastic containers and issue retail vouchers.
''They would cost-effectively recover another 113,000 tonnes of recyclate a year,'' he said.
PricewaterhouseCoopers and Wright Corporate Strategy estimated that the Boomerang Alliance model would reduce the cost of municipal solid waste and recycling collection services by $737 million over 20 years.
Mr Angel said five state and federal inquiries had debunked the myth that council kerbside collections would be harmed by a container deposit scheme.
''The BA model is more efficient than the South Australian and NT systems because it would be run by an independent co-ordinator, not the beverage companies, containers would be sorted only by material, not by many brands, and there would be lower handling costs because of automation and lower transport costs because of compaction,'' Mr Angel said.
''Unredeemed deposits would be used to support the system, not beverage company profits.''