I’m not sure how many plastic bottles we all go through per week, but I would like my milk in glass bottles please.
In the meantime I’d like to know what our next step in waste minimisation is.
Norway is a good example.
Granted it’s a wee tad rich to praise Norway for plastic recycling when they have been one of the largest producers of the mineral oil that makes plastics worldwide.
Norway is now seriously in need of more rubbish.
This shortage of rubbish is partly caused by a lack of trashed plastic bottles. Back in July the Guardian profiled Infinitum, the organisation responsible for Norway’s deposit scheme for plastic bottles and cans. 97% of all plastic drinks bottles are now recycled, 92% to such a high standard that they are turned back into drinks bottles.
It’s great that we are addressing single-use plastic bags, but in overall recycling, New Zealand doesn’t rank inside the top 25 countries in the world.
The New Zealand NGO New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development has acres of good advice that has been around for a while on recycling.
In July 2018 Councils across New Zealand called for an increase to the $10 waste disposal levy charged on every tonnes of rubbish disposed in landfills – it’s one of the lowest levies in the world. Australians waste levies are up to $133 per tonne, the U.K. charges $160, and in Europe it’s $300 per tonne. There’s not a lot of motivation here.
There’s a big review on the national waste strategy due for 2020 that might alter the waste levies, but don’t hold your breath. Waste and recycling contracts are really hard to break, so it would take really tough and determined government action to pull New Zealand out of this.
I suspect, like single-use plastic bags, campaigners will grind ahead retailer by retailer and year by year until so many large chains adopt it that making any required legislative or regulatory change is a bit of a doddle. Several years.
In short, bringing glass bottle refunds back to New Zealand is going to be consumer led, not government led.
Norway’s radical approach is to attach a deposit value of between 15 and 30 cents to each plastic bottle, to be redeemed when returned. This is then recycled into textiles, packaging, and indeed new plastic bottles.
You may, if you’re like me and have a bit of grey hair around, still remember a time where the milkman of human kindness was delivered straight to your door, paid for by milk tokens, and you delivered back a set of empty ones in a little white wire rack. These were returned, sterilized, and used by some other lucky citizen the next day.
However they are supplying to FarrowFresh and MooreWilsons, not the Countdown and Pak n Save customers of this world.
Also there’s no sign yet of a refund for returning the clean glass ones back. In California and Vermont you still can, but nearly 1,000 centres where you could return bottles for nickels have closed over the past two years – that’s about 40% of them.
Nor does it help that 500mls of Antipodes water may well come in glass, but it’s about the most expensive and premium water you can get.
It’s probably going to stay that way without major market tilting. Minister Eugenie Sage has a work programme on it.
Her work programme includes a question whether to implement more voluntary and mandatory product stewardship for tyres, batteries, and agrichemicals.
But her list needs to include the massive amplification of public discourse that plastic bag banning is doing. It affects everyone who shops, as well as everyone who votes. Minister Sage needs to start at the humble water bottle. Because that is where the political secret sauce is.
Which brings us again to a plastic bottle recycling scheme. And glass.