Keep Australia Beautiful, one of Australia's most trusted environment groups, is lobbying governments to oppose a bottle and can recycling scheme, while being funded by Coca-Cola.
Critics have questioned the credibility of Keep Australia Beautiful because of its ''disturbing'' relationship with Coca-Cola, which provides a quarter of the environment group's funds.
Keep Australia Beautiful chief executive Peter McLean confirmed that he and a representative from Coca-Cola had visited 10 members of Parliament in the past six months to discuss recycling alternatives to a national cash-for-cans scheme.
But Mr McLean said his organisation was ''definitely not'' a mouthpiece for Coca-Cola. ''A lot of people say Coke has a lot of influence on Keep Australia Beautiful but … we also have a lot of influence on Coke,'' he said.
This financial year, Coca-Cola donated $441,000 to the organisation - more than a quarter of its total revenue of $1.7 million.
Keep Australia Beautiful received more than half its funding from Coca-Cola during 2011 and last year, documents show. The total revenue for the organisation was $976,200. That same year Coca-Cola donated $498, 278.
Under the proposed cash-for-cans scheme, consumers will be given a 10¢ refund when they return a bottle or can to a depot, as is the case in South Australia and the Northern Territory. Coca-Cola stands to be financially hit under the deposit proposal.
The beverage industry, including Coca-Cola and Lion, says it would cost consumers an excess of an average $300 a year, assuming no refunds are collected. They also estimate it would cost the economy between $1.4 billion and $1.76 billion to set up, a report from the Council of Australian Governments shows.
Mr McLean said his organisation, which also runs the Tidy Town and National Litter Index campaigns, was ''not ashamed'' of its relationship with Coca-Cola.
''We have a strong record over the past decade of getting strong success in those partnerships and we have full intention of continuing to operate the organisation in that way,'' he said.
Environmental activist Jeff Angel from the Total Environment Centre said the partnership raised questions of the credibility of Keep Australia Beautiful. ''So long as Keep Australia Beautiful is being funded by the beverage industry, it cannot be regarded as an independent voice on the best way to tackle bottle and can litter,'' said Mr Angel, who is also the national convener of the Boomerang Alliance of environment groups.
A Coca-Cola Amatil spokeswoman said the company's foundation had given $1.24 million in community grants to Keep Australia Beautiful.
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