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'Flawed' drink recycling tax scheme slammed by COAG

14 July, 2014

Australian consumers will be forced to pay as much as $8 billion under a container recycling scheme that is being considered by state governments.

The $8 billion price tag for a national container deposit scheme (CDS) unveiled  would cost consumers more at the grocery check-out and is a duplication of Australia's existing world-class kerbside recycling system.
Australian Food and Grocery Council Chief Executive Gary Dawson has called on NSW Premier Mike Baird to finally reject a national CDS based on its high cost to consumers and poor economics, while citing the ongoing failure of the Northern Territory system, which has been rejected by Queensland as an unnecessary cost to consumers.
"A CDS has already been rejected by Queensland as economically unsound, while the Northern Territory scheme continues to be a wholesale failure," Dawson said. "An industry backed solution, which COAG has recommended, would deliver the same benefits at a fraction of the cost."
A CDS would force all consumers to pay up to 20 cents extra for every drink bottle, can and container they buy. They would then have to store the empty containers in their home before travelling to a handful of recycling centres to get their money back.
Dawson said the NSW Government should release the cost benefit analysis that shows the cost of a CDS has blown out from an estimated $1.4 billion to $8 billion – a 570 per cent increase that would be solely met by industry and taxpayers.
Industry alternative for recycling improvement
"In contrast, industry is proposing an alternative National Recycling Action Plan that would make it easier for Australians to recycle litter at their work, at home and in public places including parks, breaches, sporting grounds and shopping centres.
"Importantly the National Recycling Action Plan would not cost the taxpayer a cent.
"It involves the expansion of Australia's existing, and successful, yellow-top bin network from homes into Australian major public spaces, and in doing so drive up the country's overall recycling rates.
"The beverage, food and retail industries are prepared to spend $285 million over the next 10 years improving recycling and reducing litter – including the installation and roll-out of up to 166,000 recycling bins in shopping centres, parks, airports and beaches – where they are most needed.
"Australians already have some of the highest recycling rates at home. We can achieve the same recycling rates in public places with this cost effective solution.
"However, none of this can occur if an unnecessary, and duplicate, recycling system is put in place – and funded by the taxpayer.
"We call on all Premiers to be true to their commitments not to burden families with further cost of living pressures.
"Other states should follow the lead set by Queensland and instead embrace the far more efficient industry alternative that will not cost families a cent.
"We are encouraged that many Ministers are on the record as saying they would not adopt any scheme that was not cost effective nor increased the cost of living to the community. On any objective analysis – including COAG's own calculations – container deposit schemes fail these criteria," Dawson said.

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Quale | Monday, July 14, 2014, 11:13 AM
I assume "Dawson" is a representative of the Food and Grocery council, (the article does not say). Dawson is assuming nobody will seek a refund on their containers, hence the 8 billion cost. If that were the case, where does the 8 billion cost go, into whose pockets? The real scenario will be that people will rock up to recycling centres and receive their refund. Even the bogans that cant walk a couple of metres to a recycling bin now, will think twice about throwing good money away.
IndustrySearch | Monday, July 14, 2014, 11:53 AM
Thank you for the comment Quale. The article has been updated to show that Gary Dawson is the Chief Executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council.
Colin Spencer | Monday, July 14, 2014, 12:22 PM
Sir Quale, I think Dawson mentioned the need for consumers to store containers until there was enough to justify the trip to the recycling centres to get their refund. This would be a pain in the backside for most busy people these days, when presently, all we have to do it put them into our yellow top bin and put it out fortnightly. That said, when I was a kid, I used to scan the town parks for beer bottles. Four dozen to a wheat bag, and when I had 20 bags, My dad would load them up on the truck and take them to the local brewery to cash them in. Great pocket money, but I fear most young people wouldn't want to touch cans and bottles that someone had been drinking out of. Afraid of germs these days.
Martin Moran | Monday, July 14, 2014, 2:33 PM
When I was a kid any empty beer or soft drink bottle was money in the bank. The deposits added to what I earned mowing laws and digging out guinea grass in Nth Queensland was the only way I was able to go the pictures or buy lollies.
Geoff | Monday, July 14, 2014, 3:55 PM
I don't think the deposit on containers works. On a recent trip to Sth Australia we came across the scheme, every can bottle we purchased we paid 10c extra "deposit" , however if in a pub (for example) you didn't take the can with you and then put them in a bag until you had sufficient to go to a recyling depot for your refund, you just left the can on the table. I have no doubt that the hotels etc collected the cans and bottles and returned them for the (your) refund. Visitors and travelers end up paying 10c extra for the privilege of buying a can or bottle in SA. The other thing we observed was that we never saw a recycling depot. It is probably fine for the residents who have the space to collect their cans and bottles and then return for the refund but not for visitors. We still saw cans and bottles discarded on the side of the road, so I don't think it has really fixed that problem, I am not sure what the answer is,long term maybe education of the young kids.
Wolf | Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 4:13 PM
All of the manufacturers arguments amount to nothing if one considers the damage inflicted on the environment by plastic in our oceans. The oceans have 5 main gyres, which are vast circulating regions of water where various currents collide. One of those gyres, the Pacific Gyre, is know as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and it contains an estimated 100 million tons of floating plastic waste. Plastic DOES NOT break down in any reasonable time in the environment but merely disintegrates into smaller and smaller fragments polluting all the way up the food chain. The plastic has been found to concentrate some of the most hazardous chemicals known up to one million times the concentrations in the surrouding seawater. You can research this catastrophe on the Algalita Website. When I was young we had a 5c deposit on bottles in Victoria and as a kid you spent alot of your time looking for bottles to cash in. The problem was, it was very rare that you could find any since they were snapped up quickly. That was in the 60s early 70s and equivalently now the deposits should be several dollars not just 20c. I can stop the car along section of the hume and cover a couple of hundred meters to fill the car with plastic trash that the slobs among us have thrown away. A percentage of this trash is constantly finding it's way to the oceans. Given the seriousness of the oceanic plastic problem, there needs to be large depositis on EVERYTHING made of plastic until such time as petro chemical plastics can be retired from most uses. Unfortunately in our society we need to enforce that the slobs pay for the rest of us to clean up after them, and make a profit while we're at it. Quite fair and just in my book.
Colin Spencer | Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 6:15 PM
Quite correct, Wolf. I remember the 5 cent deposit bottles, but the cans came later. Beer bottles were only worth a halfpenny each, from memory, but there was plenty of them., The problem with main highways is that the people who leave them there are not planning to stop anywhere to cash in a couple of bottles or cans, so, out they go, regardless of deposit or no deposit. Imagine what the deposit on a soft drink bottle would be today if it was advanced from 5c to today's equivalent. It would have t be up around a dollar or more. Cigarette butts floating down the drains into the sea are a serious problem as well as plastic bags. However, people are far more aware of the need to recycle and keep the environment clean today than in the past. For one thing, there are twice as many of us, and we use a lot more product with disposable packaging.
Michael Czajka | Thursday, July 17, 2014, 12:10 AM
This scheme will generate a lot of jobs. It seems silly to claim it's going to cost the consumer money? If you want your 20c back you just return the container. If you don't want it back then you let someone else return it? You're paying someone else to clean up your mess. SA has the cleanest roadsides in Australia for a reason. :-)