Wine industry fears inclusion in bottle refund schemes

Wine industry fears bottle recycling refunds are set to expand


Agribusiness
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The SA Government is reviewing its container deposit scheme to possibly incorporate wine bottles.

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A potential expansion of South Australia’s pioneering container deposit scheme (CDS) is worrying the wine industry.

The SA Government is reviewing its CDS, including considering whether other containers should be included in the scheme which refunds shoppers for most glass, plastic and aluminium beverage containers after use.

The review could trigger implications for recycled bottle refunds across Australia.

Wine bottles have been exempt from the refund arrangements, introduced in 1977, on the basis they represented less than 0.04 per cent of the state’s litter stream.

The wine industry has estimated extending recycling refunds to include wine bottles would cost SA wine businesses about $5 million annually.

Wine bottles are also excluded in schemes established in other states because most are opened and used in the home or at licensed premises.

In a very tight retail environment, it is a myth to suggest the producer can pass these costs on to consumers - Tony Battaglene, Australian Grape and Wine

“While recycling is strongly supported as a part of our environmental commitment, no compelling evidence has been presented to support the inclusion of wine bottles in container deposit schemes,” said Australian Grape and Wine chief executive officer, Tony Battaglene.

“As an agricultural industry, the continuing success of the Australian wine industry relies on sustainable environmental practices,” he said.

“While good intentions may be driving  those calling for an expansion of container types to be included in South Australia’s CDS, it is important to highlight that if wine bottles were to be included producers would bear the direct and indirect costs.

Direct costs would include paying the cost of providing for a refund for deposited containers via a quarterly bill, container label registration, and handling fees.

Associated costs would range from administrative and compliance costs to quarterly reporting requirements and redesigning and re-printing labels.

“In a very tight retail environment, it is a myth to suggest the producer can pass these costs on to consumers,” Mr Battaglene said.

He said the CDS’ primary purpose was to reduce the volume beverage containers found in the litter stream.

No good evidence

No other states or territories included wine bottles in their CDS arrangements even after the introduction of CDS legislation in NSW and Queensland in the past two years.

“Good public policy is built upon a strong evidence base, and a proper weighing-up of costs and benefits,” he said.

SA’s recycling refund scheme had been a strong driver of litter reduction in public spaces without wine bottles being included, and with a focus on resource recovery.

However, Mr Battaglene said the costs to SA wine businesses and the state’s economy we very clear and there were potential flow on implications for the wider Australian industry.

“These costs would be felt by many small businesses contributing so much to rural and regional economies,” he said.

“Changing the CDS to include wine bottles has the potential to jeopardise the financial sustainability of the wine sector, which could have dramatic flow on impacts throughout the supply chain including an impact on regional employment.”

Wine is SA’s biggest single export sector.

“We wonder why the government is considering such a move as part of its review,” he said.  

Australian Grape and Wine strongly supported the SA Wine Industry Association’s efforts to inform wine businesses about the potential impact the review could have, and encouraged businesses to join the consultation process and speak to local members of parliament.

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The story Wine industry fears inclusion in bottle refund schemes first appeared on Farm Online.

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