By Peter Roberts
Leading beverage manufacturers have now put their past, vigorous opposition to container deposit schemes behind them and have strongly backed the new CDS Vic scheme announced by the state government last week.
Lion, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners and Asahi Beverages, all members of not for profit group VicReturn which has been appointed as Scheme Co-ordinator, issued statements welcoming the scheme and extolling their actions to date.
Group CEO Asahi Beverages Robert Iervasi said the maker of Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught, Schweppes, Pepsi Max, Solo and Cool Ridge water was that its beverage containers would now be recycled and play a part in the circular economy.
“We’re in the process of helping build a PET recycling facility in Altona, with our joint venture partners, Pact, Cleanaway and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners.
“CDS Vic will play an important part in providing PET bottles for the Altona recycling facility, leading to better
environmental outcomes for Victoria.”
Vice President and General Manager – Australia, Pacific & Indonesia, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Peter West went further and said the company was determined to be a catalyst in Australia’s circular economy.
West said: “The launch of CDS Vic represents a step-change for Victoria’s circular economy.
“Through our involvement in VicReturn, coupled with our investment in Circular Plastics Australia’s PET recycling plant in Altona with Pact Group, Cleanaway and Asahi Beverages, we are proud to help create a closed loop in Victoria where bottles and cans can be used, collected, recycled and reborn.”
The glowing welcomes are a far cry from the hostility which South Australia faced when it introduced the country’s first container deposit scheme in 1977.
This hostility confined container deposits to SA for 35 years – this is despite SA showing the obvious benefits of recycling – the state’s overall return rate of beverage containers was 76.7 percent in 2019–20.
Beverage containers make up only 2.8 percent of litter in that state, which boats 600 jobs created in the recycling sector and significant income going to charities, voluntary groups and low-wage earners that earn a few dollars helping recover used containers.
VicReturn members did not refer to their one-time hostility to recycling, though Group CEO of Lion, Sam Fischer attempted to make a virtue of it.
Fischer said: “Lion is proud of our longstanding involvement in Australian container deposit schemes, which stretches back more than 40 years.
“As the brewer behind some of Australia’s most loved beverage brands including Victorian-born Furphy, XXXX, Stone & Wood and James Squire we are thrilled to play a role in delivering this important scheme for the community here in Victoria.
“We have ambitious packaging and circular economy targets and look forward to the volume of our beverage containers returned and recycled increasing significantly as the Victorian scheme comes online.”
VicReturn itself will be responsible for managing the marketing of CDS Vic, running its financial operations and ensuring the smooth operation of the scheme.
Chair, VicReturn Paul Klymenko said: “I congratulate the Victorian Government on the introduction of its container deposit scheme.
“CDS Vic will have real environmental and social benefits and help create a circular economy for beverage containers.”
As someone who grew up in SA when it was being assailed by criticism from the beverage giants, it is heartening to see the very extensive action the sector is now taking to recycle and develop circular economy principles.
Packaging giant Pact Group is one whose progressive circular economy efforts really stand out as industry best practice today.
I know I risk accusations of churlishness, but it is a great pity beverage companies took two generations to become the model citizens of today.
Picture: ame.org.au/Asahi Beverages