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10 July 2010

Reportage/Enviro

Container deposit scheme: ‘waste of taxpayer’s money’

Monday’s commitment by the States and Territories to further assess the viability of a National container deposit scheme has been dubbed both heartening and a waste of tax payer’s money.

The scheme, which has been challenged by industry bodies, will see a country-wide roll out of container collection depots which will remunerate the consumer 10 cents for every bottle or can returned to the collection site.

“It’s actually a significant step forward. We’ve had the argument from the NSW government for quite a long time and “We need to have a federal approach” has been the excuse that they’ve used to duck for cover,” said Ian Cohen, Greens Member of the NSW Legislative Council.

Chief Executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), Kate Carnell, has issued a press release denouncing the move.

“There have already been a number of tax-payer funded reports on this issue – industry can’t see what another one is going to achieve,” Carnell said.

The AFGC has previously supported decisions to postpone the scheme, citing cost to consumers and the effectiveness of existing recycling systems.

Executive of the Total Environment Centre, Jeff Angel, said these figures have traditionally been manipulated to cast a negative light on the scheme, with figures failing to take into account the 10 cents, per bottle that the consumer is remunerated.

According to Angel, 80 per cent of consumers return their bottles.

“The impact per container is minimal and has been estimated maybe half a cent a container. The allegations by industry assume that people don’t take their container back to get the deposit, which is the vast part of the loss [estimated by industry],” said Angel.

Carnell argues that the scheme would induce a price rise of 14 per cent, based on ex-GST wholesale rates in South Australia.

“Industry figures are based on the impact of a 10 cent deposit on the price of every beverage container subject to CDL [Container Deposit Legislation], plus a handling fee of 4 cents per container – this is the price paid to the depots who receive bottles from the community.”

However, container disposal is not the only item at stake should the legislation be introduced.

Collection depots could also provide a solution to the growing problem of e-waste.

The transition from analog to digital TVs is one such issue.

Cohen fears that any infrastructure would come too late to assist with the disposal of the thousands of TVs made redundant by the change.

“It’s a massive and growing problem in our highly technological society and also e-waste has toxic components and if they go to landfill they become a toxic problem for many problems to come.”

While South Australia has had a container deposit scheme in place since 1897, Angel stresses the role of a National scheme in a sustainable future.

“This is not an act of nostalgia, this is about building 21st century recycle infrastructure,” said Angel.

The AFGC failed to respond to questions as to whether this dual purpose influenced their stance on the scheme.

A spokesperson for NSW Environment Minister Frank Sartor confirmed the government’s support for further investigating the proposal, while also highlighting the success of current recycling methods.

“NSW has a very effective recycling system that has seen our recycling rate increase from 45 per cent in 2004 to 58 per cent in 2009. Household packaging collected from kerbsides has increased by 21 per cent in seven years, which is an increase from 88 kilograms per person in 2000/01 to 106 kilograms per person in 2006/07.”

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