By Julian Bajkowski
High profile litter-reduction group Keep Australia Beautiful is talking up its links to beverage industry heavyweights like Coca Cola a strong positive after South Australian Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Ian Hunter, criticised the link and lobbying against the introduction of a national container deposit scheme.
“There is nothing to defend, it is well known that Keep Australia Beautiful works in partnership with industry and corporate Australia to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes, Coca Cola is one of these partnerships,” said KAB National Executive Officer Peter McLean.
“We use this funding to distribute community recycling grants across Australia.”
The public stand from the group comes amidst criticism by advocates for a container deposit scheme that KAB’s environmental agenda is largely being driven by the interests of Coca Cola and the powerful beverages lobby who do not want a front-end charge put on drink sales.
According to KAB it receives funding from Coca Cola “to run a community grants recycling program” but argues that “no board members are industry representatives" and that it is governed “independently and by no one else.”
Beverage litter reduction is no small beer, with KAB saying it received $441,000 from Coca Cola that was in turn “distributed to communities wishing to improve beverage container recycling as part of our Beverage Container Recycling Grants program.”
KAB said that money from Coca Cola constitutes 26 per cent of its national funding – but only “a 7 per cent portion of the entire state and territory networks funds” which the group says are made up of money governments, sponsorship, membership and grants.
The issue of fighting against container deposits has become an article of faith for the Australian beverages industry where opposition to front-loading charges for collection and disposal more prominent than other potentially polluting industries like automotive fluids and electronics which both have up-front levies.
“We aren’t activists, we work in partnership and wield our influence by working in collaboration, we keep people and organisations at the table and our door is always open. This is our heritage and this is what our founder Dame Phyllis Frost would be proud to see us doing, this was her ideals which continue today.”
Keep Australia Beautiful is arguing that container deposits represent “an expensive solution to operate compared to alternatives that are already established, cover all packaging materials” which it says are already “achieving results.”
“Running a CDS alongside other recycling initiatives doesn’t work,” KAB said in a statement to Government News.
But the South Australian government begs to differ, and again argued last week that it’s long established container scheme is the model of success, with Mr Hunter circulating statements from Keep South Australia Beautiful (KESAB) Executive Director Environmental Solutions, John Phillips, saying that container deposits legislation was had a positive effect which was “more significant than the interstate critics choose to recognise.”
A statement from Mr Hunters Office also quotes KESAB’s Executive Director Environmental Solutions, John Phillips, as saying that container deposits legislation has a positive impact that is much more extensive than that seen by Keep Australia Beautiful National Association “and is more significant than the interstate critics choose to recognise.”
Keep Australia Beautiful’s national arm isn’t buying into an internal debate.
“We aren’t activists, we work in partnership and wield our influence by working in collaboration, we keep people and organisations at the table and our door is always open," Mr McLean said.
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