Drink bottle recycling

Five billion plastic, glass and aluminium drink containers end up in landfill or as litter. Is a national Container Deposit Scheme the answer?
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02.Existing schemes

A similar scheme to South Australia launched in 2012 in the Northern Territory. Although it’s still much lower than the national average, the NT recycling rate doubled to 33% in the first 12 months, with more than 52 million containers recycled there. It’s also been highly controversial - Coca-Cola Amatil voiced its opposition, arguing that it adds to the cost of living in the NT, and declaring the comparatively low recycling rate (compared to the national rate) to be a failure.

Coca-Cola, Schweppes Australia and Lion Nathan (now Lion) took the NT government to the Federal Court, arguing the scheme breached federal law because it required different processing methods for the same product in different states and territories. The court ruled that the beverage companies didn’t have to comply with the scheme.

The dispute is ongoing - the NT government has applied for an exemption from the law, which it hopes to get before the 2013 federal election.

Coca-Cola is in a strange position in regard to the CDS. While vehemently opposing the NT scheme, it appears to be making a profit from the South Australian scheme.

In SA, the 10 cent deposit at the point of sale goes to the beverage company, which then returns the money when a container is redeemed. If the 10 cents isn’t claimed, the beverage company keeps it and uses it to cover their costs.

A 2012 Senate inquiry into the lack of transparency in this system and potential price gouging by Coca-Cola, Schweppes and Lion estimated that the unredeemed deposits in SA could be worth $20m.

While the inquiry found no evidence that profiteering via unreturned containers was occurring, two senators, Peter Whish-Wilson and Nick Xenophon, submitted a dissenting report, arguing that “Coca-Cola Amatil are profiteering on the CDS in South Australia via their wholly owned subsidiary State Wide. While this is not illegal, this does demonstrate some problems with the structure of existing container deposit schemes.”


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