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Alcohol dreads quarter ban

3 years ago

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  • Environmental Authority’s plans to cost industry
  • Daily drinkers worst hit
By Madhusha Thavapalakumar Sri Lanka’s alcohol industry is concerned over the possible ban on quarter arrack bottles that is likely to be brought in by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) in line with their recent regulations for environmental protection. In addition to their move to ban single-use plastic, the CEA is planning to ban 180 ml quarter bottles of arrack, mostly made of glass, as these disposed of after single use, thereby damaging the environment. Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera last week stated that a final decision would be taken in this regard after meeting with alcohol manufacturers. However, The Sunday Morning Business reliably learns that the authorities have given the industry the option of charging Rs. 50 as a refundable deposit for every quarter bottle purchased; this Rs. 50 would be returned to the consumer when the empty bottle is returned to the seller. Nevertheless, sources informed us that alcohol manufacturers are not in favour of this option, as quarter bottles are bought almost entirely by daily drinkers and an increase of Rs. 50 would put the quarter bottle beyond consumers’ reach. “The National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) Act prohibits drinking in public, so consumers have to take these bottles elsewhere and drink. After that, they would be reluctant to come and return the bottle. This move would also lead to a rise in illicit liquor,” sources added. It is learnt that alcohol manufacturers have suggested a few alternative measures instead of a complete ban on quarter bottles and charging a deposit fee. This includes getting wine shops on board to collect empty bottles that would be thrown away in their surroundings and handing them over for recycling. Alcohol manufacturers are expected to pay wine shops incentives for doing so. The next measure they tabled was the loosening of the regulation prohibiting liquor advertising in the NATA Act and to allow the display of banners and increase awareness amongst people to handover empty bottles to the nearest wine shop. The third suggestion was to get the urban councils’ garbage collectors to collect these bottles and hand it over to Piramal Glass Ltd, a glass packaging company that supplies quarter bottles to most of the local manufacturers, particularly after the import restrictions. “Over 60% of the bottle price is paid as tax, so civil administration authorities such as urban councils can collect these bottles as part of their garbage collection,” sources added.  It is learnt that due to these additional measures, alcohol manufacturers might incur about Rs. 15 million as additional costs. The leading alcohol manufacturer alone sold 55-65 million quarter bottles last year.  After being in the pipeline for years under consecutive governments, the ban on single-use plastic is set to be implemented from 2021, and the CEA has submitted a proposal to the Cabinet of Ministers on this matter. The proposal drew special attention to items such as sachets used for shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, washing powder, fabric softener, toothpaste; plastic straws, plastic bottles (PET bottles), and lids used in the water and soft drink/beverage industry; and excessive packaging used in the confectionery and biscuit manufacturing industries, to name a few.

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