As it would be observed, waste management has become a major challenge for many developed countries in the world. Today, nations have to deal with increased tonnes of waste every year as a result of economic growth and increased urban developments, among other factors. Even though many countries have tried to come up with integrated systems of managing waste, they have continued to face a lot of challenges when it comes to sustainable management of waste in their regions. For the purpose of this subject matter, this paper examines the issue of waste management in Australia. In fact, Australia is one of the many countries that have to deal with huge quantities of solid waste every year. Australia may have adopted a number of effective initiatives and policies towards a clean environment, but there is still more that needs to be done to ensure that there is sustainable management of waste in the country. For example, the country should consider putting container deposit legislation in place as one way of addressing the problem of waste disposal.
As one of the most developed and industrialized countries in the world, Australia is prone to many factors that would contribute to large quantities of waste production (Choe & Fraser 1998). Over time, the country has been producing millions of solid waste per capita. These levels are observed to have increased tremendously in recent times, coming to unprecedented levels in almost every sector of the economy. The use of landfill sites has been a common practice in the country for many years (Cohen 2006). The main reason why this has remained the most preferred option when it comes to waste disposal in the country is that they deal with the widest range of waste materials and are the cheapest option financially (Ximenes & Gardner 2008). However, recent studies focused on problems associated with various ways used to manage waste disposal in the country have identified a number of long-term environmental problems that can arise from landfills. Some of these problems would include things such as soil contamination, fire risks in the waste matter, contamination of groundwater, serious health effects, and emission of greenhouse gasses that immensely contribute to the issue of global warming (Xu & Rudolph 1999).
Among other concerns, these factors have attracted the attention of the National Waste Policy forcing it to come up with new ways that would help to address the issue of waste disposal more appropriately. One of the ways by which these approaches have been applied is through the role of companies that offer waste management services, especially the ones that are within the private sector (Dobbs 1991). The main reason why firms in the private sector would be a better option here is that they are well equipped to guarantee quality waste management services at a considerable price.
One of the main objectives of the Australian National Waste Policy is to advocate for less waste in the country (Barlaz 2006). To ensure that this goal is achieved, the policy has launched a comprehensive mission program on waste management across several key areas that include taking full responsibility, pursuing sustainability, inventing solutions, providing evidence, improving the market, and minimizing hazards (Goddard 1995). There is no doubt that this program sets the pace for a coherent approach to the management of waste in the country. However, it may take many years before the dream of making Australia a better and clean environment is finally realized, and in that case, there is a need to think of more effective interventions that can be used to facilitate sustainable waste management programs in the country. One of these approaches is the container deposit scheme which has continued to receive much support from the majority of Australian organizations that are committed to zero waste in the country.
Benefits of the Container Deposit Scheme
The container deposit legislation will bring a lot of benefits to the Australians as far the issue of waste management is concerned (Troschinetz & Mihelcic 2009). It is estimated that about 13 billion containers are used in Australia every year. However, most of these containers come from beverages, which are said to represent about 48 percent of the reported rubbish in the country. If left to litter carelessly, these containers will not only be a bad sight, but they can also bring serious harm to animals (Kijak & Moy 2004). Wildlife and domestic animals are likely to mistake the containers for food, thus swallowing them. This way, the animals may end up losing their lives in case the swallowed containers happen to block their guts. To avoid such cases, Australians should embrace the idea of a container deposit scheme to ensure that the environment remains safe for the wildlife.
The other reason why container deposit legislation may be a better option for Australians is that the scheme provides for better ways of collecting containers and cans for reuse. In fact, there is an infinite supply of containers in Australia, and if deposited well, these materials can be absorbed back and remanufactured as many times as possible, thus helping to save important resources such as water, energy, and materials. Unlike in the use of landfill sites, where it is not easy to assemble containers for remanufacturing, the container deposit scheme is a convenient and effective way when it comes to container recycling (Pickin 2008). In this regard, the Australian government, which intends to apply recycling as a sustainable approach of waste management, should think of introducing a container deposit legislation that would be applicable in all parts of the country.
The other obvious benefit that can be associated with the container deposit scheme is that it is a reliable way of collecting beverage containers that have been consumed away from home and workplaces (Cocklin & Dibden 2008). Most beverages in Australia are consumed away from residential areas or workplaces where they can be dumped easily. This way, used containers and cans are likely to end up in roads, beaches, or in poorly managed landfills where they can end up causing more harm to animals and to the environment. In this regard, setting container deposit schemes in different regions of the country will be a suitable approach that would help to prevent careless littering of containers and other hazardous wastes.
Challenges of the Plan and Possible Solutions
Even though the container deposit scheme is a better approach that can lead to sustainable waste management in Australia, it places extra burden on the citizens who are expected to contribute towards the cost budget. It is observable from the regions where the system already applies that, citizens are the ones who bear the cost of running and managing the programs. This, however, is the reason why many people would tend to view it as just another form of tax (McDougall & White 2008). This perception has given the opponents of the plan a strong footage on their stand that, the adaptation of legislation on the plan could put a lot of pressure to the Australians who are already facing high costs of living. It is believed that, the system is likely to lead to a further increase in prices of products such as fruit juice, bottled water, beer, wine, and milk, which are mainly packed in containers and cans.
However, the proponents of the plan have argued that the system is not just about containers, but a solution to other numerous problems affecting society (Henry & Yongsheng 2006). For instance, the system will help the government to save millions of money every year in lowered council costs to deal with waste management. More importantly, the scheme will help to create hundreds of jobs for young people who are required to work in various sectors of the system, such as operating reverse vending machines, serving in collection depots, and operating trucks that are used to ferry waste to different destinations (Seadon 2006).
According to the supporters, the operation of the scheme is just as easy as buying the drink. In this case, buyers are required to leave a small deposit as they purchase the drinks, whereby the deposit is added to their purchase price to be picked later after the containers have been returned to designated recycling agents (Chang & Kristiansen 2006). This way, the deposit would keep on rotating, and that is what makes it a tax versus a deposit system. The most important thing to note here is that, this money does not benefit the recycling agents in any manner, but it serves as the purchasers’ guarantee that they would take the containers back for recycling, thus helping to reduce litter. In fact, the deposit system would ensure that a greater percentage of containers are taken back to designated recycling agents, thus massively helping to minimize solid waste littering in every corner of the country. Through this promising intervention, Australia will be able to look forward to a sustainable waste management system in the near future.
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