Blog | 19th Dec, 2013

Cash for Cans, of course we can

Coca Cola and their allies are working hard to block a cash for containers scheme for Australia that has huge support in the community.

Cash for containers, or the container deposit scheme (CDS), describes systems in which people pay a deposit for packaging when they buy a product, and then redeem this deposit when they return the package for recycling. In Australia the discussion is about drink containers, particularly aluminium cans.

Australians have shown repeatedly that they support it, and there has been a program operating in South Australia since 1977, which the Environment Protection Authority  describes as “a highly successful environmental program aimed at litter reduction and resource recovery.”

What is surprising is how big soft drink and beer companies have managed to block the scheme nearly every time it has come up by intensively lobbying governments who seem to genuinely support it. (See the bottom of the blog for how to help the government stand up to them.)

The Herald Sun climbed on board with the soft drink giants in 2013. An editorial in June called the scheme a “new green tax” and implored the Victorian government not to support the scheme. Their piece quoted at length the Food and Beverage Association’s scare campaign about the price impacts on groceries of a cash for containers scheme.

What is the impact on prices in South Australia, where a similar scheme has been operating for the past decade? A quick scan of South Australian supermarket prices on the internet revealed that the major cola brands were 11-15c more expensive than in Victoria, while Bundaberg ginger beer and Red Bull were the same.

More detailed research from the Boomerang Alliance, based on a survey of  supermarkets in Adelaide, Darwin, Sydney and Perth, found that prices on soft drinks and beer in Adelaide varied from 15c cheaper (yes, cheaper in Adelaide) to 9c more expensive than the non-CDS cities.

These figures from South Australia are not “modelling” what might happen, like that released by the Food and Groceries Council and quoted by the Herald Sun, but actual price impacts over the long term, available to anyone who wants to jump on the internet and compare supermarket prices.

The exceptions were Coca Cola, 20c dearer, Lion Nathan products, 18c dearer, and Schweppes, 13c more expensive.  So the companies trying to intimidate governments into shelving this environmental action, are the same ones who commence profiteering when the schemes are implemented, at the expense of the consumers they pretend to care so much about.

So why are these companies opposed to the scheme, if they can go ahead and profiteer on the back of it? I believe it is because they fear any move which compels them to take some responsibility for reducing waste and reducing the environmental impacts of their products. That is what really frightens them. If the community and governments can compel producers to take some responsibility for the environmental damage they cause through excessive or high impact packaging and low recycle rates, they will need to develop new business models that consider the environment.

Multinational corporate giants being required to help look after the environment and take responsibility for the damage they cause: that is the larger discussion going on here.  Container deposit legislation is a small step in compelling large corporate entities to take responsibility for environmental impacts of their practises.

With cash for containers schemes, the environmental and community benefits are high, the costs are low and there is already a successful model happening in South Australia to show us how. Let’s make it happen in the rest of the country now.

To check out the Boomerang Alliance pricing report jump here >
To see much more of the Boomerang Alliance’s great work have a look here >
What can you do?  Help the Victorian government resist the influence of the soft drink and beer giants, let them know you support them on a container deposit scheme here >

(in June 2013)

Coles Adelaide (Greenacres)

Coles Melbourne (Coburg)

Bundaberg ginger beer 750 ml



Coke 2 litre



Pepsi 2 litre



Kirks lemonade 1.25 litre



Red Bull Energy Drink 355mL 4 pack