Supermarket owners along the NSW border say their livelihoods are in jeopardy because a proposed NSW recycling scheme will make canned or bottled drinks cheaper in Victoria.
From December 1, NSW will introduce a container deposit scheme delivering 10 cents for every bottle or can returned.
There are no plans for a similar scheme in Victoria.
Critics on the NSW border say the scheme will make it cheaper to buy soft drinks and beer in Victoria and people will come across to NSW to claim container deposits on bottles and cans that they did not pay a deposit on in the first place in Victoria.
Jason Martin, the owner of a supermarket in Mulwala in southern NSW, said the scheme would cripple his shop, which is already competing with a nearby Woolworths supermarket, just over the Murray River in Yarrawonga.
“We know that our profits are going to be majorly impacted,” Mr Martin said.
“We believe our business is seriously in jeopardy of going under.”
The NSW Government this week announced Woolworths as its first retailer to house collection sites, known as reverse vending machines.
Consumers could ‘game’ the system
Some of the bottles that critics say will become more expensive because of the NSW container deposit scheme. ((Supplied: Simone Martin))
The problem arises because the scheme is not being adopted in neighbouring states.
Drink manufacturers will be required to pay the government 10 cents for every bottle and can sold in NSW, plus administrative fees.
Manufacturers will pass the cost to retailers, who will increase the retail price.
But there will be no price increase in neighbouring states.
The result will be that a 24-bottle case of beer will be $2.40 cheaper across the border.
“There’s no question. We will have customers driving past us and into Victoria to buy their groceries as a result of this,” Mr Martin said.
Furthermore, consumers will then be able to gain an extra 10c refund by bringing the bottles or cans into NSW.
“We were told there’d be a different barcode system, but now we’re told that’s not the case,” Mr Martin said.
“It’s a double whammy.”
Minister advised of the issues
NSW MP Greg Aplin said he had raised Mr Martin’s concerns with NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton.
The Minister’s office said there were no plans to delay the introduction of the scheme.
Comment was sought about the impact on border communities, but no response was given.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Minister said people could only redeem refunds on eligible containers purchased in NSW, but did not provide detail on how that limit could be enforced.
Mr Martin said retailers in neighbouring border towns had also expressed their concern.
“Those retailers are saying many people in their community travel to Victorian regional centres like Wodonga, and what’s going to happen is those people will do the bulk of their shopping there to take advantage of the cost savings,” Mr Martin said.
The container recycling scheme, entitled Return and Earn, aims to reduce the state’s litter by 40 per cent, by 2020.
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