Beverage container deposit plan still up in air

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 22nd May 2009

A decision to introduce a national beverage deposit scheme – similar to that seen in South Australia – was not reached at a meeting of Australia’s state and federal environment ministers in Hobart today.

Legislation for the scheme has been put forward by Family First Senator Steve Fielding and the Greens party but the Federal Government has yet to report a conclusive opinion on the idea.

The state and federal ministers had commissioned a report into the merits of the scheme but believe more research is needed before a decision is made.

“The report provided an assessment of potential options for national measures, including container deposit legislation, to address resource efficiency, environmental impacts and the reduction of litter from packaging wastes such as beverage containers,” the ministers advised in a statement. “Council agreed to conduct a community attitudes survey on preparedness to pay for a container deposit scheme. Council will then consider whether to progress to a full regulatory impact statement with the benefit of this work.”

Senator Fielding yesterday urged the ministers to commit to the scheme in their meeting but his pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

“If the Environment Ministers accept recommendations from a secret report they have had commissioned on the merits of drink container recycling then their only option will be to support a scheme that has worked in South Australia for 30 years and reduces greenhouse gases by 1.8 million tonnes per year,” he suggested. “More than 80% of Australians support a container deposit scheme and the Rudd government should be listening to them and to their own Environment Ministers and saying ‘yes we can’ to Family First’s scheme.”

The environment ministers noted divergent views amongst the various represented stakeholders in their “Stakeholder Reference Group” but did not elaborate further.

The industry body for the food and grocery sector – the Australian Food and Grocery Council – is against the scheme, believing it will cost taxpayers up to $500 million a year to run and increased costs to business and consumers.

A copy of the report into the scheme is expected to be on the Environment Protection and Heritage Council website in due course.