Swan Valley winemaker and distiller Duncan Harris says improved education around recycling is better than expanding the container deposit scheme. Picture: Gera Kazakov

Expansion of containers for change concerns

Winemakers worry the addition of wine and spirit bottles to the container deposit scheme will drive up their prices.
November 16, 2023
Gera Kazakov

WESTERN Australian winemakers are concerned that an expansion of the state’s container deposit scheme could force them to increase the price of their products.

The concerns come as Queensland expanded their container deposit scheme on November 1 to include wine and spirit bottles, with the WA government currently investigating a similar expansion.

Harris Organic Wines and Spirits owner Duncan Harris, of Baskerville, said after Queensland included wine and spirit bottles in the deposit scheme, his neighbours have stopped sending their product to the state.

While originally he was for the expansion of Western Australia’s container deposit scheme, Mr Harris is now opposed to the inclusion of wine and spirit bottles, calling it a nightmare for small producers if it was implemented.

For Mr Harris, the issues stem from the increase in labelling the bottles would require – something he believes would drive up the cost for consumers.

“I only put one label on my bottles, and they want two. We label by hand, so the extra cost of labelling, producing the label, the labour to label plus the barcode, just makes it uneconomic at my price level in the market,” he said.

“So, all small producers would then be forced to up their prices to cover all their costs, and there are a number of people around (the Swan Valley) who still label by hand.”

Currently, containers eligible for the scheme in WA must display the refund mark, which states the container is eligible for a 10-cent refund, and all eligible containers must also contain a barcode to allow for automatic recognition.

When the WA government first introduced the scheme in 2020, a 24-month transition period was put in place in which suppliers could sell containers without the mark.

The transition period ended October 2022, and it is now an offence to sell eligible containers without a refund mark.

Australian Grape and Wine chief executive officer Lee McLean said the expansion in Queensland was ill-conceived and ill-thought-out, with many winemakers not informed of their new obligations.

“The result is that about only 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.”

A Department of Water and Environmental Regulation spokesperson said no decision had been made on expanding the WA container deposit scheme.

“Submissions in response to consultation undertaken by DWER are being reviewed, and a stakeholder advisory group was also established to undertake further consultation. The advisory group included state and national representation from the wine industry,” they said.

WA containers for change is operated by WA Return Recycle Renew, who said since the scheme began 2.7 billion containers have been recycled through containers for change.

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