The Northern Territory’s Cash for Containers program, started in January last year, forces companies to refund customers 10 cents for every bottle and can they return for recycling, ABC reports.
The three drinks companies argued that the initiative broke federal law because it required them to use different production processes in different states. The territory said the program was exempt because it aimed to diminish environmental harm, but a federal court judge dismissed this argument.
A Coca-Cola spokesman said container deposits are not the best way to improve recycling, because they are expensive and only address “a small part of the problem.”
The territory’s chief minister, Terry Mills, said his government will seek to continue the initiative by securing an exemption through the Council of Australian Governments, and would also ask drinks companies to continue the program voluntarily.
The government says 35.5 million containers have so far been recycled under the initiative, The Australian reports.
More than 111,000 people from 150 countries around the world signed a petition by corporate watchdog SumOfUs.org, demanding Coca-Cola end its opposition to the program. And yesterday, the company called police to its Sydney headquarters to stop a protest led by Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter and Clean Up Australia chairman Ian Kiernan, Adelaide Now reports.
SumOfUs.org says there is a wealth of evidence that container deposit programs are the single most effective way to get more people to recycle. A deposit program can increase recycling of plastics by 30 percent, and in some areas can lead to a 98 percent bottle recycling rate, the organization argues.
According to Greenpeace, a “modern and efficient” deposit program places no additional cost beyond the deposit on consumers and drink companies. The unredeemed deposits and sale of glass, PET and other materials cover recycling costs so the system breaks even, Greenpeace says.
In 2011, the Coca-Cola Company received a B- grade for its recycling efforts in a report by shareholder advocacy group As You Sow. Coca-Cola has historically opposed container deposit systems administered by independent third parties, and continues to do so, according to the report. But As You Sow said that Coke is “neutral” on a voluntary system of deposits administered by associated industries.