As the last mainland state in Australia to introduce a container deposit scheme (CDS), Victoria has an opportunity to make a real difference. The state’s future CDS could be the most efficient, effective and ethical in the country — but only if it is designed right.
Now, the state government is deciding who should run the scheme and has opened a public consultation on the matter. In response, Boomerang Alliance launched the Recycle right Victoria campaign this month to stop big beverage companies Coca-Cola and Lion Diary & Drinks taking control of Victoria’s CDS.
Design is key to an effective CDS
We know from experience that container deposit schemes can reduce container litter, increase recycling rates, create business opportunities and jobs, and encourage community fundraising. But crucial for any CDS to successfully meet these objectives is its design. How the scheme is run, and who the key decision makers are, has a major impact on how convenient, efficient and ethical it will be.
The problem with Coke and Lion
Our assessment clearly suggest that the states where Coca-Cola and Lion Dairy & Drinks have a major influence they have failed to meet critical consumer access needs, creating schemes with significant flaws, which will harm environmental and community objectives,.
Both companies campaigned against the introduction of a CDS in Victoria. They used heavy duty tactics to lobby the government, developing misleading adverts, taking legal action, commissioning questionable studies and even threatening politicians at election time.
In every state, beverage producers are responsible for paying refund and handling costs in the CDS. Our research in WA and Qld shows where they have control, beverage companies limit their costs and protect their profits by making returns less convenient for consumers.
Queensland has less than half the number of refund points New South Wales has, and the state’s refund points are open three times less than those in New South Wales. WA is the least accessible scheme in the nation.
As Heidi Tait, CEO of the Tangaroa Blue Foundation and Queenslander commented, "the QLD container deposit scheme has not taken into account the absolute critical need for it to be convenient for the consumer to use. Consumers are being left financially impacted by paying more for their beverages and not being able to easily redeem their refund”.
Our Recycle right Victoria campaign is advocating for similar model in NSW to be implemented in Victoria - a split-responsibility CDS whereby governance is shared between industry and community representatives, and recycling and environmental experts. After much research the government announced a ‘preferred’’ model in its public discussion paper – they supported our position.
The last hurdle
But the battle is not over. Public submissions closed off at the end of November. Now the government has to make a final decision in Cabinet. We know that Coke and Lion are spending stacks of money lobbying Cabinet ministers to support their approach. We are maintaining our campaign.
The final result should be known by March 2021.