National bottle bill down under?

National bottle bill down under?

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

The Australian Senate is looking into allegations that the beverage industry is engaging in profiteering around container deposit systems in two different regions of the country. And some see the inquiry as a chance to enact a national container deposit system.

The inquiry was prompted by a report, from zero waste advocacy group the Boomerang Alliance, which was written in response to long-held and -repeated claims from the beverage industry that deposits on containers result in higher prices for consumers and more burdens for businesses.

The report found that a handful of beverage companies in South Australia and the Northern Territory are using container deposits to raise their prices to levels that don't reasonably reflect their costs. Any extra money made from these increased prices, according to the report, isn't funneled back into recycling programs, but is instead pocketed by the companies who continue to campaign against deposits.

"While the following study is not exhaustive, there are some clear patterns to indicate widespread profiteering, in particular by Coca Cola Amatil, Lion Nathan and Schweppes," reads the report.

Written testimony from the beverage industry submitted to the Senate panel repeated familiar charges that a national container deposit system is "a high-cost scheme." It also criticized the Boomerang Alliance report as "ill-founded and without substance," pointing out that retailers set retail prices, not manufacturers. The testimony also argued that the report failed to take into consideration other factors that influence prices, such as costs associated with transporting bottles and cans for processing out of the Northern Territory, which is lacking in recycling facilities.

Although, the Australian Senate rejected a national container deposit system in September, one of the two senators spearheading the inquiry sees it as a step toward revisiting the measure.

"A Senate inquiry should allow us to get to the bottom of beverage industry pricing tactics and help ensure similar problems wouldn't occur under any national container deposit scheme," Peter Wish-Wilson, a Green Party senator from Tasmania, told The Australian. "A national container deposit scheme clearly has multi-party support in addition to 82 percent national community support, according to recent polling."

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