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We want a refund

Thursday, 15th February, 2018

The Mulga’s Dean Trengove has described NSW’s container deposit scheme as ‘a debacle’. PICTURE: Kara de Groot The Mulga’s Dean Trengove has described NSW’s container deposit scheme as ‘a debacle’. PICTURE: Kara de Groot

By Kara de Groot

More than two months have passed since NSW’s container deposit scheme was rolled out, with more than 80 million containers refunded state-wide.

Nearly six million of those were processed in Broken Hill according to the state Environment Protection Authority, which oversaw the development and implementation of the scheme, as well as managing the container registration process. 

However the ‘return and earn’ container deposit scheme hasn’t been without its issues, ranging from available locations, the costs associated with it, and the returns for consumers.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, in response to Labor’s reveal that consumers have paid $110 million in higher drink prices, but only received $8.3 million back, said there had been problems with the scheme.

“There is no doubt, and I’m not going to take away from the fact, this program had major teething problems and we know that would be the case,” Premier Berejiklian said.

The Mulga’s Dean Trengove didn’t mince his words, describing the scheme’s roll out as “a debacle from start to finish”.

He said the container deposit scheme has increased prices, hasn’t reduced litter, and in towns without already established collection points like Broken Hill, has been a massive problem.

“The scheme was rushed out way too quickly, there wasn’t enough thought put into it,” Mr Trengove said.

“I think because the government had back flipped on the greyhounds they didn’t want to backflip on the container deposit scheme,” he said.

“The idea was well-meaning, but it’s been stuffed up. The fallout now is that probably the Far West is the only place in NSW that’s running smoothly, and that’s only because our local bottle yard has been going for 40 years, since South Australia introduced their scheme.”

He said one of the biggest issues with the scheme is it requires intact bottles and cans if the person returning them wants their rebate, which is hard for both individuals and liquor retailers.

Most of the equipment used for ‘return and earn’ is automated, and scans the barcode on the returned bottle or can to authorise the rebate, which it is unable to do if the container has been damaged in some way.

“If people are drinking cans in a bar, most people squeeze it to let staff know that it’s done, and then it’s not worth anything even though we’ve paid the extra on it,” Mr Trengove said.

“With glass, you have breakages or torn labels to deal with. 

“You’ve paid the deposit on it, the product’s gone, but you can’t get your ten cents back because it’s damaged.”

Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said one of the major issues was that half of the automated collection points - reverse vending machines - were in place, and not all the promised collection points were in place.

“Everyone in NSW is paying more for every drink, but with the government failing to provide enough refund collection points our collective wallets are $100 million lighter,” Shadow Minister Sharpe said.

“Minister Upton has attempted to cover up the scheme’s failures by trumpeting 83 million returned containers, but that figure represents just 22 per cent of the forecast of 375 million returned containers.”

Mr Trengove said it was too early to tell whether there was a shift away from bottles and cans following the start of the scheme, but there definitely hadn’t been anything like what retailers saw in 2008 with the introduction of the ‘RTD tax’.

“Once again that was a time when government didn’t listen to the industry, because we said people would just go back to the bottles of spirits that aren’t served in measured amounts,” Mr Trengove said.

“So many people were of the opinion we were ripping them off because we were charging it a month early, but we were being charged a month early to fund the scheme, so unless we lost money we had to increase the price. We copped some flak.”

“They said they needed to fund the float by charging for that extra month to fund the system, but it should be self-funding now, the extra management fee per container on top of the cost is ridiculous.”

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