Environment Protection (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill

17 Jun 2008 speecharchive

This speech is to indicate that the Liberal Party will support the Environment Protection (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill.

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 30 April 2008. Page 2527.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:44): I rise to indicate that the Liberal Party will support this bill; in fact, in my view it is really a no-brainer. At the outset I would like to say that I am grateful to the staff of the EPA, who provide the most comprehensive briefings, including briefing notes, which are very helpful to those of us who are not government members. They are very thorough and, in fact, made me aware that this bill is not about the increase from 5¢ to 10¢ (that will take place by regulation) but that it tidies up a number of the provisions as well as a couple of things that I will talk about later.

The container deposit scheme was first introduced as a means to combat roadside litter, and it largely targeted single-use containers. Anyone who stays up late at night reading the government Gazette will notice that periodically a large number of containers are gazetted. This is because in the existing legislation each label needs to be approved every time it is changed or every time there is a new product on the market. So, one of the major changes under this legislation is that it will not be required to gazette each and every container and go through that approval process each time merely because the design of a label may have changed.

In the briefing I asked why wine bottles had not been included and was advised that they are less of a problem within the litter stream. In fact, jumping back to that issue of label approvals, there are approximately 7,000 approved on the system and at any one time 700 are obsolete—for example, Eagle Blue, which is no longer produced. There are some 1,600 new approvals per annum.

One of the issues that have been raised is that of interstate rorting, and I note that the super-collectors will now be regulated within this legislation. In the past they were not included and it is appropriate that, within the list of organisations that are regulated, that should continue. Because they are not regulated they are not required to pay a deposit, and there has been a court case where one of the depots was refused payment because there was no requirement to do so. I understand that it has been difficult to obtain data because much of it is commercial in confidence, so I will not read it into Hansard. However, I believe it supports the need for them not just to be included but also for the penalties for interstate rorting.

It is disappointing that this system has not been adopted nationally. I understand that it is exempted from the mutual recognition system because it might be in breach of it, but South Australia has been given a particular exemption. It would be worthwhile if it were adopted across Australia. I note that Western Australia is looking at it—something in the order of 20 cents—and it will not have the difficulties of interstate rorting because of the distances. I urge other states to look at this because we have the infrastructure and it is easy for us to say, as we have had it in this state for several decades. However, at a time when everybody should be aware of reducing their impact on the environment and the amount of waste produced that is not reusable or recyclable, it is something that most consumers would support and it is well regarded within South Australia.

It is a bit shortsighted of other states not to adopt some sort of measure. I have got on to the issue of the 5¢ deposit and say for the record that the Liberal Party supports the increase from 5¢ to 10¢ whenever gazetted. I note that the original value of 5¢, introduced over 20 years ago, in today's value would be 32¢. It would be difficult to increase it to that today as it would cause quite a few problems, but it is a positive move in the right direction and anecdotally a lot of people will tell you that there is less litter on South Australian roads from people flinging things carelessly out of their windows as we have a container deposit system. My colleagues say they have seen an increase in the amount of litter on roadsides in more recent times, so hopefully this increase will arrest that to a degree.

I note that this whole scheme has been opposed by beer producers and the National Association of Retail Grocers of Australia on the grounds that it increases the product cost price, and they point to the National Packaging Covenant Council. However, the NPCC has been embarrassed in recent times by being exposed for overestimating its progress in meeting targets to reduce the volume of packaging disposed to landfill by 2010, so it does not have a leg to stand on as it has been caught out.

CDL is also popular with a number of community groups, such as the Scouts and service clubs. From my own experience with a service club, I have been a member of the Lions of Bridgewater, which has a sorting shed just next to the old railway station. Since meeting some of the members of the recycling association I have gone back to depositing all of my bottles—wine and beer bottles—at that site because, although many people do not realise it, when you put glass into the kerbside recycling system a lot of it breaks and, when it mixes with papers, plastics and so forth, you get a degree of contamination and the end product is not as pure and does not get as high a market price.

One of the reports I was reading, possibly commissioned for this state government, in relation to the solid waste levy included as one of the costs the cost of convenience, and I question that, particularly at this time when everybody is trying to do more to assist with the environment. The impact of people at a household level making a little more effort should not necessarily be taken into account because we ought to all feel the obligation to be making more of an effort at a household level, which will aggregate into a much better effort across the board. Potentially there could be significant problems with the way the increase is implemented in that there is a mythical date (most of the recyclers know what it is, but I will not state it for the record as it will not help matters), and there will not be a phase in. It has been suggested that the depots and super collectors will be disadvantaged because, on the date of the change when it is brought in overnight, depots and super collectors will need to pay the 10¢ levy on that day, yet they will not have collected that level of cash to enable them to pay, and potentially some will go broke.

I will read some notes provided to me. It is partially a question for the government but it also signals that the Liberal Party may have some amendments to sort out the issue to facilitate the continuation of the scheme. The time from filling a container to getting it to the retailer is approximately four weeks for supermarkets and eight weeks for normal stores—an average of six weeks. The next item is the time it takes a retailer to sell, and the answer is approximately two weeks—some more, some less.

The amount of time from when the container is bought to when it is returned to either an MRF or the collection yard is a minimum of four weeks. This is part of a CDL process. So, the time from manufacture is a minimum 12 weeks (or three months), which is a quarter of a year. The number of items recycled per year is 470 million. One quarter of 470 million is 117.5 million, which will be the number of products in the system for which 5¢ has been collected and 10¢ will be needed to pay for them after the introduction date, equating to a cost of $5.875 million. One other point to keep clear is that the return rate this year has already decreased, and some yards have told the author of the document that people are holding CDL units to get 10¢ after the changeover, so that $5.875 million may be a lot larger. On top of this change for manufacturers is the cost of changing their labels to show 10¢.

It has been suggested that there be a means of implementation which will not disadvantage anyone or send anyone broke, which I think we would all agree would not be a good outcome. The first suggestion is that there be a 10¢ marking on the product packaging in a specific colour, which is very visible, for possibly the first year, and that would make work easier for the collection yards. They would need something to make the containers easy to recognise and separate. Suggestion two is that the change should be done at the quietest, or least productive, time of the year, definitely not the Christmas period. The suggestion is 1 July, but definitely in winter and not crossing the end of the financial year. This is for the benefit of all involved, especially collection yards, because they will have to sort the 5¢ and 10¢ items and forward them to super collectors in separate containers.

Suggestion three is that if a person hands in a product without a label they only get 5¢ during the changeover period, whatever that is. Suggestion four is that, at an agreed date, preferably three months from the start of the 10¢ scheme, the value of 5¢ containers should be set at scrap value. This is to encourage people to get these containers in quickly and avoid people holding them to get 10¢ for a 5¢ container after the cut-off date, and also to avoid collection yards having to sort them forever.

Those are some of the concerns that have been raised about the implementation, and that is in relation to the container deposit system. Then there are some other provisions which relate to the EPA board and requiring it to meet 11 times a year instead of 12 times. I think that is reasonable, because one of those times would more than likely be in the silly season. Then there are some other issues in relation to the works approval process.

With those few words, I indicate that the Liberal Party supports this bill but may have some amendments and certainly has concerns in relation to the implementation date because, unless that is crafted fairly carefully, there will be some winners and losers. The winners will be people who are stockpiling, and the losers will be the yards and the super-collectors who suddenly have to pay double the amount of money and probably will not have the cash flow available to provide that sort of rebate. I put that as a question, as I said, but also to flag that we may have some amendments. I endorse the bill to the council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. Sandra Kanck.