Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cash for cans

Have you ever used the cash for cans scheme? When I was a kid, the soccer club I played for used to collect aluminum cans (mainly from the drunk parents on the sidelines) and take them to scrap metal depots in exchange for $$. They would send the junior players out to check the rubbish bins for cans like an army of street urchins. I never knew if it was a lucrative venture but after some research, today you would be lucky to get AU$5 for a garbage bag full. Definitely does not seem worth the effort.

Queensland doesn't offer much for recycling. All they give you is a clean conscience and a bin with a yellow lid. Everytime I finish a drink and see the '10c if recycled in South Australia symbol' I can't help but feel a little ripped off; and also think of that Seinfeld episode where Kramer and Newman try to smuggle cans interstate in a USPS van to get more money.

In Germany, however, it is very different. Almost every drink container comes with what's called 'pfand' on it. Essentially, it's a small fee that's included in the price fir the bottle or can. When you return the bottle, you get your pfand back. some bottles will give you back a pfand of up to €0.25!

This means you are paying for the product only and not the packaging. It also means that everyone is a lot more inclined to recycle. There are no cans and bottles littering the streets because they are literally worth money and people pick them up. No one smashes bottles on the ground after a night out so when you ride around you don't have to look out for glass. And no one tears the labels off bottles because pfand relies on the barcode. Seems like a pretty good system to me.

After a week of saving our bottles at home, we took two bags full to the supermarket. You put the bottles into a hole in the wall and it tallies up your pfand before giving you a voucher for the amount. Our two bags full got us €4.53 in pfand.

Doesn't seem like much, you think?let me put it this way... A 500ml beer costs €0.47 so you could buy 9 beers and still have change. That's 4.5L of beer. And if you return the bottles afterwards, you will get another €0.72 back in pfand!

Our wonderful premier, Anna Bligh considered a cash for cans scheme... over a year ago. But she was worried that it would affect Brisbane's 'effective' curbside pick up. Considering, in Australia the rate of reclaimed recyclable material is only 38%, I don't think she has much to worry about.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I'm glad I read the above concerning cash for cans. I thought it was worth collecting aluminium cans, now I'm not too sure. I enjoyed collecting the bottles (in Tasmania) when I was a kid. Sixpence went a long way! Blah to Bligh, all she wants is money to get her to the next AFL grand final in Melbourne this year.