Work has begun to develop a fit-for-purpose beverage container return scheme for New Zealand.
Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage made the announcement at the WasteMINZ conference in Hamilton this morning.
Such a scheme would would see plastic bottles carry a refundable deposit, for example 10 to 20 cents, that is redeemed when the container is returned to a collection depot or other drop off point.
Ms Sage said this would change the way New Zealanders see beverage containers.
"They would again become something of value, and we would see increased recycling and new opportunities for refilling. When consumers recycle their drink bottles, they would get a deposit back, which incentives higher recycling rates," she said.
An estimated two billion glass, plastic, aluminium, paperboard, and other single use drink containers are consumed in New Zealand each year.
While many are recycled, they also end up in landfills or as litter in public spaces.
Ms Sage said this is something citizens, councils and stakeholders have been calling out for.
"What we are announcing today is an agreement to start the investigation and design stage for a container return scheme, learning from the best international models but designed to meet New Zealand's geographic and societal needs.
"Overseas experience shows a refundable deposit puts the value back into recycling and results in a big increase in returned containers. A scheme could lift recovery and recycling rates for numbers of beverage containers in New Zealand from around 45 percent - 58 percent to 80 percent, or more," Ms Sage said.
The project design will be carried out by the Auckland Council and Marlborough District Council and will be supported by funding of nearly $1 million from the Waste Minimisation Fund.
A proposal for the scheme will be presented to the government by August 2020.