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VWMA backs Victorian container deposit scheme model

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) is urging the Victorian Government to resist changing its proposed container deposit scheme (CDS) model.

“The VWMA believes Minister for the Environment, Energy and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio has shown leadership, selecting the best possible CDS for Victorians,” VWMA CEO Peter Anderson said.

“We refute claims by drinks manufacturers that the Minister’s choice is not in the best interest of the community. We are concerned that beverage companies are trying to muscle in for their own commercial gain.”

Anderson added that the Minister’s chosen scheme design removes conflicts of interest and takes the best elements of CDS design from around Australia.

“The proposed Victorian model will provide greater transparency and accountability of deposit funds, higher rates of recycling, and a fair opportunity for charities and community groups to participate,” he said.

“We applaud Minister D’Ambrosio and her department for their leadership and measured approach to implementing the Victorian CDS.”

As reported in The Age last week, scouts, local sporting clubs and charities have joined drinks manufacturers Lion Nathan and Coca-Cola Amatil in a bid to pressure the Victorian Government to change its proposed CDS model.

“Community groups such as Scouts Victoria want the state government to adopt an alternative scheme, used in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory, which would allow community groups, local sporting clubs and charities to collect recyclables and pocket the refund,” The Age report reads.

“Motivated by concerns the Victorian scheme will make drinks more expensive and potentially deter customers, large beverage manufacturers Lion Nathan and Coca-Cola Amatil have also set up a group called VicRecycle, to lead the campaign for a not-for-profit ­operator to run the CDS.”

Scouts Victoria Executive General Manager Jon McGregor told The Age that his organisation was strongly opposed to the scheme D’Ambrosio has chosen.

“The strategy being proposed here means community organisations will earn 3.5 to 4.5 cents per container, versus 6.5 cents if there’s no network operator taking a cut. It sounds small but it adds up pretty quickly when you consider there are three billion containers every year,” he said.

Late last year, Boomerang Alliance launched Recycle right Victoria – say yes to a clean CDS, a campaign in support of a split responsibility approach for Victoria.

“Our campaign is aimed at thwarting the many hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on lobbying efforts by big beverage producers CocaCola Company and Lion Dairy and Drinks,” Jeff Angel, Boomerang Alliance Director said.

“They are fighting to take control of the Victorian CDS scheme by advocating for an alternative ‘producer’ governance model, despite having intensively campaigned against the introduction of the CDS in Victoria in the first place.”

SPLIT RESPONSIBILITY

Victoria’s proposed split responsibility model, which is already operating in NSW and the ACT, involves a Scheme Coordinator who will run the administration and finance for the scheme, while a separate Network Operator runs the network of Refund Points.

“This design maximises the number of bottles collected at the lowest cost for scheme delivery, as well as ensuring strong transparency and accountability,” D’Ambrosio said.

In Queensland and Western Australia, however, the state government outsources the network operations role to the scheme coordinator.

Earlier this month, the Tasmania Government announced the split responsibility model as its preferred CDS design, with the scheme set to roll-out by 2022.

According to National Waste and Recycling Industry Council CEO Rose Read, NSW’s Return and Earn CDS has “clearly set the benchmark” in best practice community access, container redemption and recycling rates, social and environmental outcomes and transparent governance.

“By separating the roles of network operators and scheme coordinator, it ensures consumer convenience is being delivered and provides a commercial incentive to collect and recycle containers back into the economy,” Read said in a October 2020 column for Waste Management Review.

“In Queensland, even with a community access target set by government, customer convenience is still poor, with many collection points only open for limited hours or located in light industrial areas. This is what you get with too much devolution of responsibility and a least cost compliance approach.”

In a statement addressing the Victorian CDS model announcement in November last year, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia CEO Gayle Sloan said that by proposing a split responsibility model, the Victorian Government is able to manage the inherent conflict of interest associated with higher return rates leading to increased costs for beverage suppliers.

“Industry applauds the Victorian Government for proposing a scheme that is aligned with the government and community objective of delivering the highest quality, most accessible scheme,” she said.

Sloan added that industry acknowledges that there are multiple important players with distinct responsibilities in a best practice CDS, including the beverage industry, who can play a part in the governance arena and ensure equitable distribution of costs across the sector.

“However, to drive accessibility and community engagement, a strong scheme requires a recycling-driven approach to collection points, where that governance body is not conflicted by a primary objective of minimising costs to beverage suppliers,” she said.

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