Community and industry figures have expressed concern that a NSW container deposit scheme is not placing enough emphasis on consumer convenience and will not be ready to commence by the planned start date of July 1 next year.
The scheme, under which 10¢ will be paid for every drink container between 150 millilitres and three litres, is one of the Baird government's key tools for reducing the state's litter 40 per cent by 2020.
But with the scheme start due to start in less than a year, questions have been raised about where consumers can redeem their recyclables.
"We are, as an industry body, extremely concerned with the tight timeline, everyone would agree it is extremely tight," said Rob Kelman, executive officer of the Association of Container Deposit System Operators.
"If the state government gets the regulatory environment correct then the private sector is totally ready with hundreds of million of dollars to invest in setting up infrastructure that would make for a convenient scheme for all of NSW," he said.
"If it is not appropriate then investment won't follow, infrastructure won't be established and the scheme therefore will not be convenient."
Draft legislation and a regulatory framework discussion paper outlining the scheme were released at the end of August, with the public exhibition and feedback period closing on Wednesday.
Among the terms outlined in the government's discussion paper were the two roles through which the scheme will be delivered; a single scheme coordinator and one or more network operators.
Dave West, spokesperson for the Boomerang Alliance of 35 environment groups, said he could offer "no endorsement for the design" of the scheme.
"Despite promising a 'world's best practice system' we have a scheme much like South Australia, with some unproven and untested features. There isn't a single feature adopted from the best performing schemes in Europe or North America.
It is understood representatives of the NSW EPA declined an invitation by industry to visit established container deposit schemes in Europe earlier this year.
"They have also failed to create any regulatory provisions to ensure major retailers provide access to facilities and in store information about the CDS so that NSW consumers are able to easily participate and redeem."
The EPA has previously said the scheme would be mostly based at existing waste and recycling facilities, which would deliver at least 18 collection points across Greater Sydney, however it remains unclear what sort of involvement will be had by retail sites.
Mr Kelman said most successful and convenient schemes around the world have return points at or near retailers.
"The retail sector has coverage over the whole state. People consume thoses services almost daily."
Community polling revealed at industry workshops by the EPA this year showed that "collection depots, reverse vending machines at retail outlets and major retail outlets" were considered by consumers as the most convenient locations for container returns.
An EPA spokesperson said the location of collection points would be determined by network operators, who would be appointed after the passage of the bill before the end of the year.
"...It is envisaged that Network Operators will be able to enter into commercial arrangements with retailers and other property managers to participate in the Scheme."
In developing the scheme, she said the EPA had examined more than 40 schemes around the world, visited Australian jurisdictions and contacted and researched overseas jurisdictions.
A spokesperson for the Australian Food and Grocery Council said consistency across states and territories was critical to reducing confusion and costs for consumers and businesses.
"This particularly applies in the value of the refund, labelling, eligible containers and implementation timelines. Should a system not be agreed...it will unnecessarily increase complexity and work against building an effective recycling system..."
This story originally appeared on www.smh.com.au