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Greenpeace targets corporate giant as container deposit scheme decision looms

A Greenpeace video mimicking a Coca-Cola Amatil ad has targeted an industry-backed container deposit scheme that “will not solve our enormous litter problem,” ahead of the NSW government’s decision on a scheme within months.The video reveals that more than 40 million cans and bottles are littered in NSW every summer, and calls for support of a “recycling plan that works,” in the form of a container deposit scheme.

“Last year, Mr Baird committed to a world’s best-practice container deposit recycling system by 2017. Now Coke is lobbying hard to get him to break his promise by choosing its own plan, which won’t solve our enormous litter problem,” said Nathaniel Pelle, Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner.

Since December last year the public has had the opportunity to commenton two options for a potential scheme, put forward by a nine-person advisory committee, with representatives from government, the beverage industry and community groups.

The first, a “Refund CDS” would be framed around a financial incentive: “A consumer would pay an additional 10 cents on the price of a drink and receive it back if and when the empty container is returned to a designated collection site.”

Option two, “Thirst for Good”, is an alternative industry proposal, developed by the major beverage companies, which suggests a “$15 million annual investment by the beverage industry in a suite of programs aimed specifically at reducing litter,” involving both financial and non-financial incentives.

While the latter is an industry-wide scheme, the Greenpeace video refers to it as “Coke’s plan,” and labels it “a joke”.

But the Australian Food and Grocery Council, who is representing the industry scheme, said it will have a bigger and faster impact on litter than a traditional scheme because it targets “all litter, not just beverage containers.”

“It also generates millions of dollars in annual funding for local charities and community groups and will not slug consumers with higher prices that a traditional container deposit scheme will,” said Gary Dawson, Australian Food and Grocery Council CEO.

He argued that a cash-based container deposit scheme “imposes cost on all drink containers, not just out-of-home litter … In some cases, this will have a larger price effect on individual items than a rise in the GST from 10 to 15 per cent.”

An image from the Greenpeace campaign calling for a container deposit scheme to “double recycling rates” in NSW. Photo: Greenpeace

While Mr Pelle acknowledged the Thirst for Good scheme was put forward by the Australian Food and Grocery Council to represent all industry players, he said the Greenpeace campaign targeted Coca-Cola Amatil because it is “the main company in Australia and around the world that has led lobbying efforts to ensure cash for container deposit schemes never get up.”

“It was Coke that took the Northern Territory government to court over their introduction of a container deposit scheme, and in documents from global Coca-Cola they make it clear opposing container deposit schemes is something every country should push for.”

Mr Pelle pointed to The Coca-Cola Company annual report for 2012, which states that if requirements like “beverage container deposits, recycling, eco tax and/or product stewardship” are adopted in any major markets in which Coca-Cola operates, “they could affect our costs or require changes in our distribution model, which could reduce our net operating revenues or profitability”.

A spokesperson for Coca-Cola Amatil said any suggestion that Thirst for Good was not an industry-wide proposal is wrong.

“Thirst for Good is the AFGC’s holistic solution to address the litter needs of NSW supported by all major beverage manufacturers,” she said.

“With almost 40 years’ experience operating container deposit schemes in South Australia and the Northern Territory in Australia, Coca-Cola Amatil believes that the litter reduction needs in NSW are different to what South Australia required in the 1970s.”

►Public consultation on the container deposit scheme is open until February 26. To read the discussion paper click here

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