Cash back cost ‘60pc’

CON­TAINER RE­TURN SCHEME BLOW OUT

The Sunday Times - - Recycle Reality - TREVOR PADDENBURG

SU­PER­MAR­KETS are warn­ing some drink prices could rise 60 per cent when WA’s con­tainer de­posit scheme takes ef­fect, cost­ing thirsty West Aus­tralians an ex­tra $300 mil­lion a year.

Un­der the cash-for-con­tain­ers pro­posal — due to come into force in 2020 in a bid to lift the State’s low re­cy­cling rates — con­sumers will be paid 10¢ for drink cans, soft drink bot­tles, bot­tled wa­ters, flavoured milks and sports drinks be­tween 150ml and three litres.

But Wool­worths has warned that, when han­dling and ad­min­is­tra­tion costs are added, the cost of ev­ery drink in a re­cy­clable con­tainer could rise by as much as 15¢ — and the price hike will al­most en­tirely be passed on to con­sumers.

The su­per­mar­ket gi­ant said the cost of $1 drinks would come to about $1.15 but a 24-pack of 600ml wa­ter bot­tles could rise from $6 to $9.60 — a 60 per cent hike.

In a sub­mis­sion to the WA Gov­ern­ment — which Wool­worths this week said it stood by — the su­per­mar­ket chain’s gov­ern­ment re­la­tions man­ager Richard Fifer said the “over­whelm­ing cost im­pact” of the scheme would fall on WA shop­pers who could “ex­pect a sig­nif­i­cant price rise on all re­cy­clable prod­ucts across the board”.

Wool­worths said that in NSW, which adopted a con­tainer de­posit scheme in De­cem­ber, con­sumers were pay­ing about 12¢ more for each can or bot­tle and it es­ti­mated the ex­tra cost for NSW shop­pers at $420 mil­lion a year, in part be­cause many con­tain­ers were not be­ing re­turned for the 10¢ re­fund.

Wool­worths warned the WA scheme would be “sig­nif­i­cantly more” ex­pen­sive — at up to 15¢ per con­tainer — be­cause of the State’s size and lower pop­u­la­tion, with the Con­sumers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of WA es­ti­mat­ing the cost for WA bev­er­age drinkers at $300 mil­lion a year more.

The su­per­mar­ket said based on its ex­pe­ri­ence in SA and the NT, which al­ready op­er­ate the scheme, the “vast ma­jor­ity” of drink con­tain­ers were still dumped in kerb­side re­cy­cling bins.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Stephen Daw­son said big price rises were un­likely but the “cost of bev­er­ages may be marginally above the 10¢ re­fund that they will get for re­turn­ing el­i­gi­ble drink con­tain­ers to re­fund points”. “The ac­tual price rise will vary de­pend­ing on scheme costs, mar­gins added by pro­duc­ers or re­tail­ers, and the ex­tent of prod­uct dis­count­ing. Ex­pe­ri­ence in other States is that scheme costs are around the 10¢ per con­tainer mark,” he said.

A re­view of the NSW scheme showed drink prices had risen be­tween 6¢ and 13¢.

“So for peo­ple who bother to get the 10¢ back, for some con­tain­ers they could ac­tu­ally end up sav­ing money,” Con­ser­va­tion Coun­cil WA di­rec­tor Piers Ver­ste­gen said.

He said most peo­ple would “ac­cept mod­est price in­creases given the en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits and jobs cre­ated by the scheme”.

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