WHILE waiting for his takeaway dinner last night, Laurie Whelan decided to look inside the red-lidded bins in the Bendigo CBD to see how many bottles and cans were headed to landfill.
Within half an hour, the Greens candidate for Bendigo West had gathered about 200. He found even more on roadsides in the area.
They were displayed in front of Maree Edwards MP’s office on Thursday morning after Labor and the Coalition combined to defeat a Greens upper house motion this week calling for a container deposit scheme by November next year.
Victoria is the only mainland state without plans for one after New South Wales brought in a scheme in December last year including recycling vending machines – some just over the border in Moama and Albury.
Mr Whelan said time for talk was over: Victoria needed a container deposit scheme.
“It’s an indication of what is in our rubbish bins. They’re going to landfill,” he said.
“Older people would know that years ago we used to collect them, there was a value on them, we’ve come to realise that it’s time to put a value back on those containers.
“There’s a big focus on plastics at the moment that goes to landfill, or just out into the environment. It’s a resource that we need to use, as well as a fact it’s jobs and a cleaner environment.”
Mr Whelan suggested the waste recovery centre at Eaglehawk would be the ideal place to set up a container deposit point in Bendigo, allowing residents to get cash back for their bottles and cans.
“It will need some investment, but that’s clearly where the state government has sat on its hands because the landfill levy has been accruing millions of dollars and that’s where they should have had a strategy to implement the infrastructure needed for these sort of collections,” he said.
The matter was debated in the upper house on Wednesday and was voted down. Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards was not required to vote on the motion.
She said the state government had recently released a plastic pollution discussion paper, and a reference group would be set up to to investigate all ways of reducing plastic waste.
Ms Edwards said the scheme should not be rushed into law, after there were issues with the rollout in New South Wales.
“The New South Wales experience showed how there can be serious issues if these schemes are rushed,” she said.
“We don’t want to rush into something that isn’t the best solution for Victoria.
“It’s not like this issue has been ignored by the government. We will monitor the way the container deposit schemes are rolled out in Queensland and Western Australia.
“There are many ways the government can alleviate plastic pollution, and this is just one of those. The Greens are entirely focused on just one of these ways.”
Ms Edwards said the government had spent $100 million over four years on measures to improve waste management and recovery, including $37 million to improve the quality of recycled material and a ban on lightweight shopping bags by the end of 2019.
The Boomerang Alliance raised concerns there were not enough collection points in NSW. The alliance also found 84 per cent of Victorians supported such a scheme.
South Australia has had a container deposit scheme since the 1970s, while Queensland plans to introduce a scheme from November this year. Western Australia has also committed its introduction.