In apparent capitulation to industry demands, the NSW State Government has rolled back the launch date of the proposed Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) by five months to 1 December this year.
Australasian Association of Convenience Stores CEO Jeff Rogut expressed relief that the government, now headed by Baird replacement Premier Gladys Berejiklian, had rolled back the date after deciding to respond to his requests.
Last month Premier Baird’s office said it was firmly committed to sticking to the 1 July rollout date, and had refused to meet with Mr Rogut to discuss the issue.
“We are grateful that minister [Gabrielle] Upton has responded and even made direct contact – a contrast to previous ministers who did not even reply to communications,” he said.
However, Mr Rogut suggested that AACS still had concerns about the rollout in its current form.
“A key issue for our members is the broad commercial implications of the CDS to the convenience industry,” he said.
“While larger chains have the economies of scale to offset costs nationally, small businesses do not enjoy the same luxury and as such may be placed at a competitive disadvantage in an already challenging market.”
He also expressed concerns that thus far there had been no marketing campaign to make consumers aware of how the scheme would operate, and that a lack of public awareness could damage the scheme.
“AACS is happy to play a role to support the consumer education process,” he said.
“For instance, our members’ stores could potentially disseminate information flyers advising consumers of what they need to do to claim their refunds as well as any other litter reduction hints if supplied by government, EPA etc.”
A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Authority said that the rollout would include a public awareness campaign, however it is understood that no implementation date has been set.
Mr Rogut suggested that the price of a bottled drink to the consumer could rise by 20c, to cover the 10c deposit as well as the cost of operating the CDS.
A spokesperson for Coca Cola Amatil (CCA), the Australian bottler of Coca-Cola and other beverages owned by the Coca-Cola Company, said that the exact pricing of drinks affected by the NSW CDS could not yet be quantified, but that the company viewed the extension of the launch date as a positive
CCA has put in a bid to be part of a joint venture to become the scheme coordinator in NSW (as the company already is in South Australia) as well as to be one or more of the network operators in the state.
“We support the idea of a CDS in NSW and we want to be involved in it just as we are in South Australia, however, from our perspective it’s a big logistics exercise, and if we win the bid, we would have a major task ahead in terms of infrastructure, siting collection points, and so on,” the spokesperson said.
“The idea that there is an extra five months in which to do this, provided we win, is very much a plus.”
NSW minister for environment Gabrielle Upton said that recycling and litter lobby groups Clean Up Australia and Boomerang Alliance also asked for an extension of time “to make sure the CDS is a wold leading program”.
“This will be the biggest initiative to tackle litter in the state’s history – stakeholder feedback is vital to get the scheme right,” she said.
Boomerang Alliance Director Jeff Angel said the Alliance, as one of the biggest proponents of the NSW CDS, wanted to ensure it would “work efficiently for the community and business to maximize the environmental benefits”.
“The Alliance understood that getting the container deposit scheme up and running was a very complicated process. It’s better to delay the implementation by a few months, so the scheme is ready from day one,” Mr Angel said.