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May 14, 2009

Sunshine Coast Daily

Greens seek 10c deposit levy

The Australian Greens have introduced legislation aimed at setting up a national beverage container deposit scheme for bottles, cans and cartons.

The minor party's bill proposes a 10 cent deposit on each item that will be imposed on importers or producers of a beverage container unless they are granted an exemption.

The levy would be administered by the Department of Environment, water, Heritage and the Arts.

"This bill ensures that all beverage containers sold in Australia must be labelled as refundable," Greens senator Scott Ludlum told parliament.

The scheme would leave the government with a surplus of about $89 million a year that could be spent on assisting the rollout of new recycling and processing facilities.

It would deliver new jobs, add to economic growth and reduce waste in landfill, Senator Ludlum said.

Debate on the Environment Protection (Beverage Container Deposit and Recovery Scheme) Bill 2009 was adjourned.

Meanwhile, industry leaders have trashed the idea of a national cash-for-cans scheme, saying it could bump up the price of canned and bottled drinks by as much as 25 per cent.

Drink prices would rise by up to 14 cents per container, potentially adding a dollar to the cost of a carton of beer, if the container deposit levy (CDL) scheme were adopted across the nation, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) says.

Environment ministers are set to meet next week to discuss the proposal. The levy system is currently in operation only in one state - South Australia.

AFGC chief executive Kate Carnell said a national CDL would cost Australians $500 million and waste a decade of careful planning and cooperation by government and industry.

"Environment ministers must once and for all reject the expensive CDL scheme which we believe will cost Australians a whopping $500 million a year compared to the current affordable and effective model," she said.

Ms Carnell said the National Packaging Covenant - an agreement already in operation for 10 years between industry, government and non-government bodies - was a more efficient method of recycling, required no collection charges and was better value for money.

The increased cost of drinks under a CDL scheme would include a deposit and handling fee, with the deposit refundable on an empty bottle returned to a recycling depot.

South Australians currently collect up to 10 cents a bottle.

Alec Wagstaff, of the National Packaging Covenant industry association, said the shift to a levy system could burden and confuse consumers.

"I don't think Australians will be less likely to recycle (under the CDL), but the scheme is complicated," he told AAP.

He said the current cooperative arrangement had brought major progress in recycling and more was expected with plans to boost recycling outside the home and modify packaging designs.

Under the covenant, Australia's recycling rates have risen from below 40 per cent to almost 60 per cent over the past five years.

Mr Wagstaff said beverage container recycling rates were even better at 70 per cent.


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