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January 10, 2009

The Border Watch

Crackdown on container smuggling racket

Victorians are increasingly sneaking across the border to cash in on South Australia’s recycling deposit scheme since refunds were raised to 10 cents per container on September 1 last year.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has vowed to crack down on the opportunist bottle smugglers and issue fines of up to $30,000.

South Australian depots suspecting interstate rorters have recently taken declarations for more than 140,000 containers.

The EPA has sent warning letters to at least 30 Victorians, according to South Australian EPA director of science and sustainability Peter Dolan.

“We have very good relations with collection depots; we regularly visit and inspect them and keep a close watching eye on people who bring containers in for a refund,” Mr Dolan said.

Recent amendments to the South Australian container deposit legislation included an increase in fines from $300 to $30,000 and depots requiring declarations if 3000 or more containers are presented for return in a 48 hour period.

Declarations require the full name and address of the person presenting containers, proof of identity and details of vehicle registration.

“Mount Gambier and the South East are obviously some of the most likely places for this to happen, but we are currently investigating someone who travelled from Alice Springs to Pooraka in Adelaide to try and collect a refund,” Mr Dolan said.

“We have to protect South Australia’s container deposit scheme for the financial benefit of the state.”

Containers sold in South Australia carry a deposit which is refunded when they are returned to a collection depot, but containers sold outside the state do not have the deposit added to the price.

The EPA’s main focus is on those who bring large volumes of containers across the border.

“We try to catch those who do this in a commercially organised way and we have also sent warning letters out to Victorian transport companies,” Mr Dolan said.

Green Triangle Recyclers general manager Ian Weber confirmed there had been an increase in interstate visitors who tried to rort the system in Mount Gambier.

“We even caught one who changed the number plates on his vehicle,” he said.

Mr Weber said he was “absolutely” in favour of a national container deposit system.

The Environment Protection and Heritage Council in April last year established a beverage container working group to investigate the merits of a national container deposit system.

Members of the working group represent the Federal Government, Victoria, New South Wales, the Northern Territory and South Australia, while results from independent assessments undertaken in Western Australia and Tasmania are also included in the investigation.

The working group is expected to release a final report on a national scheme in April.


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