NSW Wine has spoken out against plans to add wine bottles to the state’s Return and Earn Scheme, saying it will cripple the industry.
The NSW Environment Minister James Griffin, announced over the weekend that public consultation was now open on the planned expansion, which would see up to an additional 400 million eligible bottles recycled each year, including 233 million glass bottles.
“We already accept beer, cider and a range of other beverage containers through Return and Earn, and now we are looking to include glass wine and spirits bottles and larger drink containers,” Mr Griffin said.
“The scheme expansion would boost recycling rates, reduce landfill, and supercharge our push towards a circular economy in NSW. Expanding Return and Earn is a win for the environment, a win for communities and a win for businesses.”
However, NSW Wine Industry Association (NSW Wine) President Mark Bourne said the move will cost struggling NSW wine producers more than $30million per year.
Bourne said: “The total lack of engagement from the NSW EPA and Minister Griffin is very disappointing. This ill-informed proposal, after zero consultation with industry, does not outline in any way how it will further drive a circular economy and has family-owned NSW wineries footing the bill to the tune of over $30million per year.”
Bourne said this cost to the wine industry came on the back of four very difficult years, with the industry battling the effects of drought, bushfires and smoke, COVID-19 shutdowns, floods, and crippling export tariffs into China.
“Make no mistake, jacking up costs for wine producers in the Hunter, Riverina, Southern Highlands, Orange, Mudgee and beyond – the majority of them small and medium-sized family businesses – will send some of them to the wall,” he said.
“To be clear, NSW Wine supports efforts to improve recycling, but expanding the scope of the CDS (Container Deposit Scheme) to include wine bottles just doesn’t stack up on any level. For example, why is the Government whacking one of our great export industries and regional employers with a giant tax when its own research tells them a fourth kerbside bin for glass, which is being rolled out in Victoria, delivers greater environmental benefits?
“And where is the data in the consultation papers outlining the true cost to NSW winemakers? What makes this proposal to expand the scheme particularly difficult to swallow is that it would amount to a de facto wealth transfer from small winemakers in the bush (family-owned wine businesses accounting for more than 75% of the total grape crush in NSW) to big business.
“Ahead of the next state election, NSW Wine urges the Government and Opposition to put this plan in the trash can where it belongs. After the Minister presented the plan as a fait accompli, we call on the Government to go back to the drawing board and undertake genuine consultation with industry.”