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Message from the CEO, Dominique Lamb: 30 January 2018

January 30, 2018

The push for a nation-wide ban on single-use plastic bags has been underway for such a long time, it’s exciting to see it finally becoming a reality, with each state pursuing its own legislative amendments, and bans already implemented or pending in all states and territories except NSW.

Other environmental legislation underway includes container deposit schemes (CDSs), which works on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, making suppliers responsible for paying a refund for returned drink containers (each jurisdiction’s list is different, but the bulk is plastic soft drink and water bottles).

New South Wales has just become the third state/territory after South Australia and the Northern Territory, to introduce a government-legislated approach. Queensland is set to roll on July 1 and Western Australia on January 1, 2019.

The schemes are an incentive to reduce litter in our waterways, green spaces and streets and reduce the number of recyclables in landfill, but the onus is on beverage suppliers make it work on a day-to-day basis.

In a nutshell, the respective government levies a tax on the beverage supplier in order for it to be able to pay the refund to consumers. The suppliers pass that tax onto the consumer but need to also have a system in place to allow people to return the bottles, and deal with the additional time and operational requirements.

With so many of our beverage retailers operating at a national level, with supplies docking in various states, with supply chains that cross any and every state and territory border, and retail outlets nationwide, things are a little muddy.

There’s already controversy for consumers (regional beer drinkers forking out at least $3 more per carton but without access to any refund facilities; inadequate collection points with up to three hours’ drive between them in some parts; only digital refunds or a supermarket voucher on offer rather than cash; or even containers bought cross-border being returned for a refund in a different state, that was never paid in the first place?).

But things are even more complex for retailers themselves – for example, a retailer could be levied the 15 c per bottle as first supplier, when their shipment lands on the docks in New South Wales, but if that shipment is destined for Queensland shelves, the retailer may find themselves hit with a second tax by the Queensland Government.

Or it could end up on shelves in Victoria where there’s no scheme, and the product is sold for 15c less per bottle than in NSW where it landed, so the retailer has ended up paying a levy but no capacity to recoup it in the retail price.

It’s an unintended consequence but an example of how difficult it is to operate schemes within borders, that apply to a cross-border retail environment.

While we commend the various governments for taking a stand to address the ever-escalating waste issues, we are calling on each one to consult with retailers throughout the rollout and next phase implementation on each jurisdiction’s legislation.   

It’s early days yet for New South Wales, but with Queensland’s and Western Australia’s soon to follow, we anticipate more teething problems and as such, will be working hard behind-the-scenes to make sure this is as easy a transition for you as possible.

There are myriad issues for individual retailers too when it comes to implementing the scheme, but we are here for all our members who need advice on this issue going forward.

If you’re concerned, or you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the website, at www.nra.net.au.

Have a great week.

Dominique Lamb, CEO. 

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