Key questions remain for expanded Queensland Container Refund Scheme

New Queensland legislation makes it unlawful for wine businesses to sell wine into Queensland unless they have registered with Container Exchange (COEX), executed a Container Recovery Agreement (CRA) and registered each of their bottles by 1 November 2023.

Australian Grape & Wine CEO Lee McLean holds grave concerns about the impact of Queensland’s expanded Container Refund Scheme (CRS) on thousands of Australian wine businesses, as key questions remain unanswered. Mclean expressed his concerns in a statement yesterday, ahead of the scheme, which will commence today.

“This ill-conceived, ill-thought-out scheme is due to commence tomorrow [Wednesday 1 November] despite numerous concerns and questions remaining unanswered by the Queensland Government.

“The Government states that 98 per cent of Queenslanders are in favour of this scheme, but the Government has not told Queenslanders that this scheme will result in fewer wine choices, increased prices and based on other states’ cost benefit analyses, no significant increase in recycling of wine bottles or meaningful environmental benefits.  It just doesn’t add up,” said McLean.

“The consultation and engagement process in relation to this change has been nothing short of shambolic and large swathes of the wine producing, wine distribution and wine retail sectors are simply unaware that this change is happening.  The result is that only about a quarter of wineries have registered to participate in the scheme, and only a fraction of these registrations has been transitioned to an agreement to enable wineries to legally sell their wines into Queensland as of tomorrow [Wednesday 1 November],” said McLean.

From today, Queenslanders will get 10 cents for every glass wine and spirit bottle, from 150 millilitres to 3 litres. These glass bottles can still be placed in the kerbside recycling bin.

“The Palaszczuk Government refuses to release the cost benefit analysis to support their claims that the scheme will result in a significant increase in recycling of wine bottles and meaningful benefits to the environment.  They are attempting to repurpose a litter reduction scheme in a cynical attempt to win votes ahead of next year’s election.

“The Queensland Government still can’t provide confirmation to wineries whether the Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) also applies on top of the schemes 13.9 cent per bottle tax.  GST is also added on top of the 13.9 cent charge to wineries, resulting in the Queensland government putting a tax on a tax on a tax.  This is all despite the Palaszczuk Government’s commitment to introduce no new taxes at the last election,” McLean concluded.

The Australian wine industry remains strongly committed to increasing the recovery and recycling of wine packaging and creating a circular economy for wine bottles that is based on a shared responsibility model across the whole production chain.

Queensland’s Environment Minister Leanne Linard was enthusiastic about the scheme, noting that the decision to expand to wine and spirits bottles followed an “extensive consultation period”.

“In five years we’ve seen 7.1 billion containers returned for recycling and re-use and, in the process, diverting them from landfill, which is great news for our environment,” said Linard.

“Our decision to include glass wine and pure spirit bottles followed an extensive consultation period, during which more than 6,600 Queenslanders shared their thoughts about including additional containers in the refund program.

“The Department of Environment and Science and Container Exchange have been actively engaging with wine manufacturers to help them prepare for the expansion. In recent weeks, I have also met with representatives from peak bodies representing wine and spirit producers and I thank them for their cooperation in implementing this important initiative.”

Natalie Roach, CEO Container Exchange, said she was looking forward to welcoming more customers to refund points across Queensland.

“With glass wine and pure spirit bottles eligible for refunds from 1 November, Queenslanders now have even more reasons to become change makers and share in the environmental and economic benefits of the Containers for Change scheme.

“Containers for Change also delivers significant social benefits across the state including employment for more than 930 Queenslanders. The new Windsor refund point alone has created 6 jobs,” said Roach.

“More than $710 million has been returned to the pockets of Queensland households since the scheme began, including almost $11 million which has been paid to charities and community groups.

“With the addition of wine and spirit bottles to Containers for Change from 1 November we look forward to welcoming even more customers to our refund points across the state so they can continue to make the change that matters.”

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