IAN KIERNAN wants a beverage container deposit system to be implemented nationally, labelling a corporate-backed court challenge to such legislation in the Northern Territory ''arrogant''.
Mr Kiernan, who is leading his 24th annual Clean Up Australia Day on Sunday, said a national cash-for-containers scheme would increase recycling rates and reduce waste.
''We keep plugging away at deposit legislation because, of the top 10 items found last year [on Clean Up Australia Day], seven were beverage related,'' Mr Kiernan said. ''A deposit system would fix that problem. Instead of seeing rubbish on the road or the beach, people will see money. It'll soon disappear.''
South Australia has had a deposit system for more than 30 years.
The Northern Territory introduced a system in January last year, offering 10¢ refunds for containers brought to collection depots, paid by the beverage manufacturers.
The NT legislation has been challenged in the Federal Court by Coca-Cola-Amatil, Schweppes and Lion Nathan, which argued it would lead to higher costs for consumers for little or no environmental benefit. A decision is expected within three weeks.
''Essentially, we see it as just another tax,'' said Jenny Pickles, of the Australia Food and Grocery Council, which represents the three beverage companies.
''In reality, the bulk of people are already doing the right thing by recycling in yellow-topped bins at home,'' she said.
A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola Amatil described container deposit schemes as ''an expensive, old-fashioned system which only catered for one item - drinks containers''.
It wants manufacturers of all littered items to contribute to ''improving and expanding kerbside recycling, providing more recycling bins for people when they're away from home, funding community groups which clean up rivers and parks and supporting state governments to get tough with litterers''.
Mr Kiernan says the industry opposes the legislation ''because they're getting a free ride''.
''They sell us the beverage, the container and then they tell us to get rid of it,'' he said.
State environment ministers agreed in August to investigate better policies to reduce packaging waste, including a national container deposit scheme. An impact statement will be presented at the COAG Standing Council on Environment and Water later this year.
The NSW Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, said the state government was open to proposals ''so long as they are demonstrated to be cost effective and generate a benefit to the community without significantly increasing the already rising cost of living''.
A spokesman for NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said container deposit legislation was ''long overdue'' and the Greens were ready to develop a bill, pending the COAG outcome.
Mr Kiernan also wants beverage companies to make bottles with lids that remain attached to halve the number of plastic waste items in the environment.
Clean Up Australia Day organisers hope to exceed last year's turnout of 590,000 volunteers at 7363 registered sites. A special focus will be on the Cooks River.