14 March 2022


Consumers’ wallets will take another hit if the proposal for a Container Return Scheme (CRS) for beverage containers goes ahead and adds significant costs to their purchases. It’s expected that Kiwis will pay more for their mixers, orange juice, kombucha, beer, wine, or spirits if all the costs for operating the complex scheme and the upfront 20c deposit are added to every product and then passed on to consumers. In the current climate of increased costs, producers of beer, wine and spirits, retailers, and hospitality venues would struggle to absorb the additional costs. The proposed CRS could also come at the expense of New Zealand’s existing world-class glass recycling programme, warns the NZ Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC).

“Consumers might be initially delighted at the idea of a refundable deposit on beverage containers, but additional costs to run the scheme will see them being stung with what is essentially a ‘beverage container tax’ – potentially increasing the cost of a case of beer by 20%, which is around $8 per case. Kiwis want to do better when it comes to recycling, but consumer research shows that while over 80% of adults support the general idea of a CRS, their support for the idea dropped to 51% when the realities of the increase in the cost of a case of beer was taken into account,” says Bridget MacDonald NZABC’s Executive Director.[i]

“The alcohol industry is committed to product stewardship and strongly supports government aims to ensure New Zealand has sustainable waste solutions that are effective and efficient in the recovery and recycling of materials. But taking a one-size-fits-all approach to developing a beverage-only Container Return Scheme is rather short-sighted as it ignores all the other containers that Kiwis want to recycle despite the additional cost to consumers,” Bridget says.

“New Zealand already has a highly effective government-endorsed voluntary glass recycling programme operated by the Glass Packaging Forum that achieves a world-class 75% recovery rate of all glass containers nationwide. It’s funded by industry and not limited to just beverage containers. It doesn’t make sense to cannibalise a programme that is already highly effective by global standards,” Bridget says.

Bridget says the proposed CRS is for beverage containers only; therefore, kerbside recycling would still be required for all other containers such as jam jars or pasta sauces. As a result, New Zealanders would be faced with a dual system that would mean duplicated costs for consumers from both the costs of running the scheme being added to beverage products in addition to local Council rates for recycling.

“Kiwis are environmentally aware and keen to play their part for a sustainable future, but we need solutions that don’t add unnecessary cost and complexity. We need to have strong levels of participation and high recovery of materials, but there are also concerns about the lack of infrastructure to recycle and reuse once it is collected,” Bridget says. 

“Sustainability is at the heart and future of our industry – from grape, hops and botanical growers to vineyards, breweries, distilleries – the industry is making progress in reducing carbon, water and energy and packaging, reusing byproducts, and recycling waste. New Zealand needs to take a materials-based approach that works as part of national standardised kerbside collections to maximise the recyclability of materials,” says Bridget.


[i] Curia consumer research of 1,000 respondents was conducted in July 2020. 


Need more information? 

Check out cheers.org.nz and alcoholandme.org.nz for more information on what a standard drink is and how to make better drinking decisions.

A good rule of thumb is ‘Go no, low or slow’. It’s okay to choose no or low alcohol drinks. If you choose to drink, pace yourself and enjoy your drink slowly.

Ministry of Health/HPA Guidelines: Low-risk alcohol drinking advice to reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than:

Two standard drinks a day for women and no more than 10 standard drinks a week,

Three standard drinks a day for men and no more than 15 standard drinks a week,

AND have at least two alcohol-free days every week. 

Need help? 

Call the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, free txt 8681, or visit alcoholdrughelp.org.nz.