Beverage battle for Container Deposit Scheme

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 22nd May 2013

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has accused the environmental lobby group Boomerang Alliance of being misleading.

The Boomerang Alliance has been campaigning with an online petition for the Federal government to create a national Container Deposit Scheme. According to the AFGC, the Boomerang Alliance petition failed to mention that to get a 10 cent deposit back consumers would need to “hand over up to 20 cents at the cash register”.

“The environmental lobby advocates a system that will cost consumers at the checkout,” said Gary Dawson, AFGC CEO.

“Nowhere in the world is there a drink container deposit scheme that is free to consumers. This environmental group is lobbying for a new tax on glass and plastic drink containers, which will push up an average family’s grocery bills by more than $300 a year,” Mr Dawson said.

The Boomerang Alliance handed the petition, with some 68,000 signatures, to the New South Wales Premier on 19 April 2013, the same day that the Australian Government agreed to introduce legislation to legalise the Northern Territory container deposit scheme.

The Australian Government’s decision followed a Federal Court ruling in March 2013 that the Northern Territory container deposit scheme conflicted with Federal law governing trade between the States. Three beverage manufacturers, Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA), Schweppes Australia Pty Ltd and Lion Pty Ltd, had challenged the legality of the scheme.

“Nowhere in the world is there a drink container deposit scheme that is free to consumers. This environmental group is lobbying for a new tax on glass and plastic drink containers, which will push up an average family’s grocery bills by more than $300 a year,” Mr Dawson said.

The Boomerang Alliance handed the petition, with some 68,000 signatures, to the New South Wales Premier on 19 April 2013, the same day that the Australian Government agreed to introduce legislation to legalise the Northern Territory container deposit scheme.

The Australian Government’s decision followed a Federal Court ruling in March 2013 that the Northern Territory container deposit scheme conflicted with Federal law governing trade between the States. Three beverage manufacturers, Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA), Schweppes Australia Pty Ltd and Lion Pty Ltd, had challenged the legality of the scheme.

Following the Court ruling, the Federal Government introduced a Federal law that permitted the Northern Territory to apply for a permanent exemption from the law.

So despite losing the Court battle, the environmental lobby hopes that with the support of the Federal Government, the Northern Territory scheme can go national.

‘Away from home’ scheme industry preference

But the AFGC said an ‘away from home’ recycling scheme is the industry’s preference.

Recycling group Visy is the major player in the recycling systems based on sorting household waste streams. The AFGC supports the Visy home recycling business model as being more efficient than the container deposit scheme which has operated in South Australia for the past 30 years. The Northern Territory scheme was modelled on the South Australian scheme and is confined to beverage containers rather than the bigger picture of recycling waste streams. Modern technologies have facilitated the sorting out of different materials.

“Industry wants more recycling and less litter and we have a plan to deliver it at no cost to consumers. That’s the plan that Australia needs and wants, not an inconvenient and costly drink container tax,” Mr Dawson said.

In March 2013, the AFGC released data showing that Australia’s drink container recycling rates were continuing to rise, with an extra 42,284 tonnes recycled in 2011-12 compared to the previous year.

The AFGC also highlighted a 2009 survey from the AFGC’s Packaging Stewardship forum, where 1,400 Australians were asked about their attitudes towards and support for container recycling. The survey found that 68 per cent of all respondents were 95 per cent confident they would prefer an away from home recycling scheme to a Container Deposit Scheme.

Industry plans “feeble” says environmental group

But the Boomerang Alliance has previously rejected industry plans for recycling bins and litter advertising as “feeble”.

“The NT Government is to be congratulated for standing up to Coke and defending a scheme that has doubled bottle and can recycling rates in just 12 months,” Jeff Angel, National Convenor of the Boomerang Alliance said when the Australian Government announced it would legalise the scheme in the Northern Territory.

“Now that it is free from legal attack, the government, community and the recycling industry can focus on improving its efficiency and effectiveness,” Mr Angel said.