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June 29, 2010

Inside Waste Weekly

Container deposit angst, again

With EPHC meeting of the nation’s environment ministers set to convene in Darwin next Monday, the issue of container deposits has flared yet again. Ministers are set decide whether to commission a regulatory impact statement into a national container deposit scheme (CDS), but the Greens and the Total Environment Centre have accused bureaucrats of sitting on a critical piece of information– PricewaterhouseCoopers’ willingness to pay study.

TEC director Jeff Angel believes the PwC report will show CDS will deliver significant economics benefits for the nation but, despite assurances from senior staff that it will be released shortly, has been held back “in order to send a distorted picture to ministers at their meeting, and to prevent the public knowing the full picture”.

“Our [Freedom of Information request] has been rejected: the NSW Government has opposed its release to the NSW Parliament, and now the Federal Government has refused a demand by the Senate,” said Angel.

“With environment ministers due to meet next week to decide the future of container deposits, it’s essential such information is released to the public,” he said. “What do they have to hide?”

The Beverage Container Investigation report by BDA consultants, which was commissioned by the environment ministers last year, controversially offset the potential benefits of CDS against the “convenience cost” of people having to return the containers.

“We understand the [PwC] report proves the public is willing to support container deposits (CDS) and estimates the economic value of reducing litter and saving resources at over $650 million,” said Angel.

“Further, the public is not inconvenienced by having to return bottles and cans to get the deposit back. If you apply this to recent economic studies of the costs of having a CDS, then a CDS would be worth several hundred million dollars a year to the nation,” he said.

“We challenge the ministers to release the [willingness to pay] report before they meet, instead of hiding it. There are claims it is only a final draft, but this is just another ploy to prevent its release.”

South Australia has had a container deposit scheme in place for over 30 years, but despite pointing to low litter rates and multiple social benefits, it remains the only state in Australia to back deposits.

The NT is moving to put CDS into place next year, while WA and Tasmania have also mulled the concept. Victoria has made it clear in the past that it would not put CDS in place.

The NT Government is following suit, however, having passed legislation on May 6 that will see Territorians earn 10 cents for every bottle or can they hand in from 2011. Collection depots will be established around the top end so that not all shops have to return the 10 cents to consumers.

NT Environment Minister Karl Hampton put the CDS in place despite the fact that state and Federal governments have not yet released the long awaited Choice Modelling Study on the concept.

The beverage industry has lobbied hard in the past to try to stop CDS going ahead, arguing it will reduce the economic viability of existing kerbside collection systems and add $5 to the cost of a carton of beer.


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