BARRY BRANNAN
Who would you trust for advice about Container Deposit Legislation? A Hobart City Council committee is about to look at a report written by a former beverage industry lobbyist, Mr Russ Martin. He is the author of “Feasibility Study of a Container Deposit System for Tasmania” which was commissioned by the state government and released in June 2009. He previously appeared on behalf of BIEC, a beverage industry funded lobby group, at a 2005 parliamentary inquiry and had also fought to repeal CDL in Florida in the 1990s.

The summary produced by Hobart City Council officers, unfortunately, regurgitates everything he says, without question.

Despite clear evidence otherwise that CDL would save councils money, false and misleading statements by Mr Martin are set to kill off Hobart City Council support by convincing the council that it will cost them money. The Executive Summary in the Russ Martin’s report declares: “Introduction of CDS would have some negative financial impact on kerbside recycling, although the full extent cannot be quantified at this stage.” This statement is repeated in the Hobart City Council summary.

The essential citation that Mr Martin gives for his conclusion is his own submission to the 2005 parliamentary inquiry, where he appeared on behalf of the beverage industry. Russ Martin told the committee:
“..materials that would be subject to CDL provide significant value to Tasmanian kerbside programs. CDL items represent 54 per cent of the weight of materials in kerbside, yet almost 77 per cent of the value of kerbside materials so, if those materials are then diverted through a system of depots or reverse vending machines and away from kerbside, that has significant impacts on the yield of kerbside and the economic viability of kerbside..”

The logic is hard to fathom but it seems he is trying say two things: (i) that materials revenues will decline. (ii) imply that collection and sorting costs will reduce less than will revenue from materials.

A 2004 report (link inactive) from Southern Waste Strategy Authority has figures for the financial impact of the current kerbside system in Southern Tasmania:

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It is a myth that CDL would remove “valuable” materials from kerbside – and result in less earnings to council. Any reduction in the materials revenue is easily outweighed by a reduction in sorting and collection costs. You can see in the table that the revenue earned from materials is less than half the collection and sorting costs. So if relative costs stay the same, any reduction in the quantity of materials collected at kerbside – such as would occur under CDL – improves the financial performance of the kerbside system.

Indeed in NSW in 2001, an extensive study by the Institute for Sustainable Futures projected that under a 10 cent container deposit scheme material revenues would decrease by $4/household/yr but collection and sorting costs would decrease by $7/household/yr (ISF 2001, Vol2, p151, Table 3.6-1). Reductions in collection costs significantly outweigh reduction in material revenues, resulting in a decrease in the cost of kerbside services to local government.

The financial benefits to councils are:
• reduction in collection and sorting costs for kerbside recycling system
• reduction in litter collection costs
• the deposit value of containers placed out for kerbside collection
• small reduction in garbage collection costs and landfill costs
There are also significant additional environment and economic benefits of CDL that don’t affect council finances.

The Hobart City Council must not blindly accept the report of someone who is so vehemently opposed to container deposit legislation, and who is spreading false and misleading information. Councils stand to benefit financially from container deposit legislation so it is in their interests to support it, as well as for the wider benefits.

Hobart City Council’s City Services committee sits at 5pm on Wednesday 29th July 2009.

Barry Brannan
Sandy Bay