Fines won’t fix litter problem without recycling refunds

Western Australia’s peak environment group today welcomed an announcement by State Environment Minster Hon. Bill Marmion that fines will be increased for littering offences in WA, but warned that relying on a punitive approach would not solve the state’s litter problem without incentives such as a recycling refund scheme for cans and bottles.

Conservation Council of WA Director Piers Verstegen said, “Minister Marmion’s announcement today shows that the Barnett government is aware of the litter problem and prepared to take action, but we can’t rely on fines alone to fix our litter and waste management issues in WA.

“Increased fines have their place, but a purely punitive approach to waste and litter is unlikely to be effective in WA.

“Where other states and countries have adopted incentives to do the right thing, such as recycling refunds, the results speak for themselves with less litter and less valuable material going to landfill.

“After cigarette butts, beverage containers are the most common littered item in WA, so the obvious next step for WA is to join with the Northern Territory in introducing a recycling refund scheme similar to the one that has been operating successfully in South Australian for decades.

“Introducing a 10-cent container deposit has been proven to increase recycling rates to 80% and dramatically reduce littering. This alone would make a huge difference to our beaches, parks and natural spaces, as well as deliver big savings to local government in reduced litter cleanup costs.

“The unfortunate truth is that in WA we have among the lowest recycling rates in the country. People want to do the right thing, but our huge distances and low population density means that it’s currently very difficult. By putting a cash value on our bottles and cans we can make it easier on all West Australians, especially people in regional areas who right now can’t afford to recycle.

“In addition to the environmental benefits, a 10-cent refund would be a financial boon to local community groups and charities.

“The South Australian 10 cent container refund has not only delivered the highest recycling rates in the country, but, by running a network of recycling hubs, the state’s Scouts are able to earn around $2 million every year and run some of the best programs in the country. It’s a similar situation with schools, footy clubs and charities all over the state.”

For further comment

Piers Verstegen – 0411 557 892

John McCarten – 0403 900 193