Testing the law

NT container deposit scheme moves to court

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

NT container deposit scheme moves to court
Following an ongoing furious stand-off between drinks manufacturers, environmental groups and the local government, the Northern Territory’s opinion-splitting container deposit scheme has now reached the point of litigation.

A cartel composed of Coca-Cola Amatil, Schweppes and Lion has launched a Federal Court action to challenge the legal validity of the scheme, and demanded that it be removed. Under its terms, drinks companies are currently required to pay a 10% refund for each returned beverage container.

This in turn has hit producers—and subsequently the consumer, the drinks companies allege. 

Slow to catch on

Coca-Cola Amatil pledged that it would move “quickly​” to reduce prices on its Northern Territory products if the application is successful. Territorians are currently being forced to cover the cost indirectly through MRPs largely as the result of limited uptake in the scheme.

The NT scheme, which has been operating for more than 12 months, has been an environmental failure, with two out of every three containers sold not being recycled—well below the national average​,” a Coca-Cola spokesperson said.

But environmental groups like Greenpeace are delighted with the policy’s implementation. Greenpeace Australia-Pacific boss David Ritter said the scheme was “proven​”, with the recycling rate having doubled during the first nine months of the programme. 

They have drawn parallels with South Australia’s scheme, which has run for decades, and is forecast to reach 80% recovery rates within a couple of years. “It's time for Coca-Cola to get out of the way and let this scheme come in​,” said Ritter.

Wool over eyes

The eco-campaigner had earlier this week staged a pro-deposit scheme publicity stunt at Coca-Cola Amatil’s Sydney offices. However, this measure quickly drew the wrath of the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), which accused Greenpeace of “trying to pull the wool over consumers’ eyes​”.

The environmental lobby advocates a system that will cost consumers at the checkout​,” warned Gary Dawson, chief executive of the AFGC, who was lending his support to the drinks companies at the legal action.

Nowhere in the world is there a drink container deposit scheme that is free to consumers​.

All Australians need to know that the Council of Australian Governments has found the cost of this scheme will be up to $1.76 billion to the economy​.”

Related topics: Policy, Australia - New Zealand, Beverages

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