Victorians are being asked to provide feedback on the proposed model for the state’s container deposit scheme (CDS), which will be rolled out by 2023.
Western Australians have returned more than 10 million containers since the state’s container deposit scheme, Containers for Change, launched 1 October.
Waste Management Review speaks with Return and Earn charity and community return point operators about collective community action and the social side of CDS.
A container deposit scheme that follows best practice leads to better performance and innovation and should be top of mind for Victorian and Tasmanian Governments as they develop their state-based schemes, writes Rose Read, NWRIC CEO.
Environment Minister Matt Kean has congratulated communities across New South Wales for making the Return and Earn program a success, with over four billion containers recycled through the scheme.
As Victoria joins the rest of the states and territories with a Container Deposit Scheme commitment, Coca-Cola Amatil and Lion outline the key ingredients of a well-run scheme.
As the last state to make a commitment to introduce a container deposit scheme (CDS), Victoria will pave the way for what will become a truly national scheme.
Victoria, which will introduce a CDS by 2023, follows Tasmania, which last year committed to a scheme by 2022. Together, Coca Cola Amatil (Amatil) and Lion Co have operated CDS’ around Australia for more than 40 years.
As the schemes have been set up differently across the states and territories, the two companies play varying roles in other jurisdictions.
In NSW and ACT for example, Amatil and Lion play a role in the scheme’s coordination as part of the five beverage manufacturers managing the scheme through Exchange for Change in each jurisdiction.
In Queensland and Western Australia, the schemes have been developed as not-for-profit organisations, established by Amatil and Lion as members.
These four newer schemes build on the success of CDS’ in both South Australia and the Northern Territory, where both organisations have been scheme coordinators in what are some of the oldest producer responsibility schemes in the world today.
Jeff Maguire, Group Head of CDS Development & Implementation at Coca-Cola Amatil, says the two companies strongly support the planned Victorian and Tasmanian schemes.
“An effective CDS is at its core a producer responsibility scheme. The scheme will create a circular economy that will reduce litter, avoid unnecessary landfill, increase the volume of collected and recycled material, and importantly, minimise the price impacts for consumers,” Jeff says.
“Tasmania and Victoria are in a great position to look at how states are going with their schemes, including the schemes in NSW, ACT, QLD, and WA.”
He says it is important to draw a distinction between an independent scheme coordinator and operators of the collection point networks.
Some of the core tenets of this model of operation, he says, include having a producer led Scheme Coordinator with an independent chairperson and independent board members, which ensures accountability and transparency ie: a true producer responsibility system.
In the NSW, ACT, QLD and WA Schemes, the Chairs are appointed by the relevant Minister, giving the community confidence about governance.
Another key point of accountability in a well-run scheme, Jeff says, is audit controls. This ensures the containers, which are valuable commodities, are traceable and there is no double handling from the consumer through collection to recycling.
The challenge for government, Jeff says, is that the scheme is independent and ensures extended producer responsibility through accessibility and convenience. This means collection points must be established in areas where they are needed most, he says, regardless of the economics.
“For example, in Queensland we set up a collection service on the entire west coast of Cape York. It’s a lot of small communities but we think everyone should have the opportunity to claim their 10 cent refund,” he says.
Jeff says that as the producers of beverage containers, it is unacceptable that they end up in the litter stream.
Amatil and Lion see it as their responsibility to do what they can to reduce litter and ensure it doesn’t end up in waterways, and reduce landfill while increasing recycling rates.
For example, the scheme has been extremely successful in NSW, collecting over three billion containers and achieving the litter reduction goals. Before the Scheme, 160 million drink containers were littered in NSW each year.
This comprised 44 per cent of litter by volume. The scheme has resulted in an up to 57 per cent reduction in drink container litter and an annual average of 40 per cent reduction in drink container litter since the Scheme began in 2017.
Jeff says the core challenge is for the scheme coordinator to work closely with governments to ensure the collection point network is accessible and convenient for consumers.
“It is imperative that the scheme engage with all levels and all players in the waste and recycling industry to offer the most diverse and inclusive collection point network possible,” Jeff says.
He says a CDS offers significant and diverse opportunities not just for commercial waste operators, but also social enterprises, community groups and small businesses.
This is achieved through litter or donation drives, or by promoting the ability for the public to donate their refunds directly to chosen organisations.
In NSW through the collection point network it is possible to donate to a variety of charities and social enterprise groups when returning containers.
Over $1 million has been raised by donation appeals through bottle returns, supporting more than 430 groups.
In Queensland, more than 5000 community and social enterprise-based groups have established a scheme account for their organisation – allowing easy donations to them from community members no matter where they return their containers. Around $2.1 million has been paid to those groups and charities via donations since the scheme commenced.
However, despite minor differences in the models structures and operations, Jeff says that at the core, a CDS provides the potential for community benefits nationwide.
To that end, he estimates that when you add up all the schemes, with many of them worth anywhere from $400 to $600 million to the local economy, you end up with potentially a $2 billion industry.
“As Tasmania and Victoria consider design options for a CDS, we look forward to working closely and collaboratively with them, as we have in the other states and territories to set the schemes up for success,” Jeff says.
Return and Earn has delivered exceptional results across litter reduction and participation since launching in 2017. Exchange for Change explains the five key factors behind the scheme’s success.
Since Return and Earn launched in December 2017, a staggering 3.4 billion containers have been returned for recycling.
Millions of containers are now returned every single day and more than $1 million has been raised for charity and community groups through reverse vending machines (RVMs).
Put in perspective, prior to the scheme’s commencement, more than 160 million drink containers were littered across the state each year.
Since the scheme’s launch, litter from drink containers has reduced by an annual average of 40 per cent in NSW, supporting the NSW Government’s commitment to reduce overall litter by 40 per cent by 2020.
The Return and Earn scheme is delivered through collaboration with three partners.
The NSW Government who designed the scheme; Exchange for Change (EFC), the scheme coordinator, and TOMRA-Cleanaway who operate the network of return points.
Importantly, it is an excellent example of producer-responsibility, with the beverage industry funding the scheme and the community receiving a 10 cent refund when they return containers.
Since the launch of the scheme in December 2017, 3.4 billion containers have been reused or recycled.
CEO of Exchange for Change, Danielle Smalley says it’s the collaboration between the NSW Government, EFC, TOMRA-Cleanaway, and the beverage industry that drives great results.
“Return and Earn has fundamentally shifted people’s thinking around litter and waste. The community is no longer seeing containers as something you throw away, they’re actually seeing it as a valuable commodity,” she says.
She says that it’s the community that has really benefited from the success of Return and Earn. Danielle highlights that there has been a significant reduction in litter.
The scheme has also created significant opportunity for smaller and local businesses to play a role collecting containers as over the counter return points or automated depots. This also generates the potential for local job creation.
Last, but not least, the scheme shares the wins with everyone, including consumers, councils and charities.
More than $1 million has been raised for official donation partners listed on reverse vending machine return points since the scheme launched, and countless more funds raised for charities, schools and community groups through their own return and earn activity.
Public participation in Return and Earn is also very strong, with 59 per cent of NSW adults having participated in the scheme.
The majority – 78 per cent of these participants, which is nearly half the population of NSW, return containers every month or more.
Danielle says it’s repeated behaviour that is really important.
“There was initially awareness building and then when people started to engage, it was about getting them to make it habitual and Return and Earn has been successful on both fronts,” she says.
“A great deal of the repeated behaviour can be attributed to the excellent customer experience. It’s accessible, easy to return and there’s an instant refund, so people come back again and again.”
This positive experience has been driven by the customer-centric design of Return and Earn, which mandated that return points needed to be located at convenient locations in existing paths of travel for consumers.
These community access principles were central to the tendering process for the scheme. On the ground, the customer centricity is being delivered through TOMRA Cleanaway’s network of more than 635 convenient return points widely available across NSW.
These include over the counter, RVMs, automated depots and donation stations. Variations between the type of return point, whether it be cash refund, donation or voucher, and the quantities they accept also make it easier for the public to choose a return system that suits them best.
The scheme is also data-rich thanks to a strong technology foundation through TOMRA Connect, enabling scheme partners to respond to issues quickly and rapidly adapt to the needs of the customers.
For example, a live data feed is connected to the Return and Earn website and the myTOMRAapp, helping NSW consumers find the nearest return point and to quickly check availability before returning.
The network of return points also enables real-time monitoring of the scheme, helping identify the busiest points and enabling evidence-based decision making on possible future locations and how best to optimise network use.
At the time of writing, in response to COVID-19, consumers could access Return and Earn for returns if it was in line with the most recent advice from the NSW Government Public Health Order.
The network operator has been able to adapt to the unfolding situation, introducing ‘touch-free recycling’ at RVMs with no need for consumers to touch machines, alongside a range of extra measures to ensure participants follow government advice on good hygiene and maintaining social distancing.
Looking at the future, there is real potential for the model of partnerships and producer-led responsibility to help deliver the NSW Government’s vision for a circular economy.
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Through Queensland’s container refund scheme, Containers for Change, one local recycling business has grown their employment rate by six times. Ken Noye of Container Exchange explains.
Situated a three hour drive north-west of Brisbane, Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council was found to be the most disadvantaged local government area in Australia in the 2016 census.
Fast forward just four years, and the region is in better shape, with workers at the shire’s material recovery facility (MRF) honoured with the state’s Deadliest Start-Up Change Agent award in January.
The MRF, which is the only recycling centre within a 150-kilometre radius of the shire, operates the region’s Containers for Change container refund point.
The Change Agent award was presented in recognition of facility manager Andrew Beckett’s commitment to using the scheme to drive employment opportunities in the region.
In addition to the Deadliest Start-Up Change Agent award, Andrew and his team were honoured at Container Exchange’s inaugural Change Maker Awards in October 2019.
Presented by Chairman Mark O’Brien, they received the Change Maker Chairperson’s Award for the outstanding positive impact they have brought about in their local community.
While it would be naive to suggest one program could completely shift the social and economic environment of a region, Andrew says Containers for Change has had a significant impact on his community. He adds that since the scheme commenced, litter in the region has dropped significantly.
“It’s also made a difference in the attitude and self-esteem of our mob. The workers that we’ve employed, are happy people and their lives have changed,” he says.
“We all have a connection to country, so it’s very important that we look after, and protect land. It’s part of you really, it’s in your DNA. That’s hopefully the mentality of all Australians.”
Andrew says by showing respect to the land, the Queensland community can make significant environmental and social inroads.
“We talk about climate change and carbon emissions, and I think it’s about the next generation. If we don’t demonstrate to our children the right thing to do, how are they supposed to learn?” he says.
The benefits associated with Containers for Change employment are more substantial than simply a wage, Andrew suggests, with externalities including better civic engagement, enhanced social interaction and overall gains in self-esteem and wellbeing.
Operated by not-for-profit Container Exchange (COEX), Containers for Change was launched in 2018 in a bid to address the state’s relatively low recycling rates.
Since the scheme’s launch, Queensland has seen a 35 per cent drop in container litter, with over one-and-a-half billion containers returned since the scheme commenced.
The return rate, according to Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch, was a third higher then predicted: highlighting the container refund scheme as an effective litter prevention and product stewardship mechanism.
Despite impressive return and recovery rates, Ken Noye, COEX Chief Executive Officer, says the scheme’s value is multi-faceted and also lies beyond the environmental sector.
“There’s no question about the positive environmental impact that Queenslanders are having on the volume of beverage container litter across the state. But the scheme has many other benefits, including providing opportunities for people to find employment and learn new skills,” he says.
Rockhampton’s Kanga Bins for instance, is helping keep Central Queensland beautiful through their nine drop-off and refund points.
“While they’ve processed more than 55 million containers, an impressive feat, what’s really significant is how Kanga Bins have used the scheme to create 36 new jobs – six times the number employed by the company pre-scheme,” Ken says.
Kanga Bins is one of many Containers for Change success stories, Ken says, highlighting the scheme as a mechanism for positive social change. He adds that COEX developed its Change Makers series – a selection of short, engaging online videos – to shine a light on community benefits.
“Our Change Makers work at the coalface of the Containers for Change recycling program. They’re refund point operators, container collectors, charity workers, local club members and even school kids,” Ken says.
“And they’re living proof that everyday people can make a difference and are at the heart of a successful recycling program.”
Janelle Zordan, another COEX Change Maker, runs a booming Containers for Change depot in Capalaba. Her business, Advanced Metal Recycling, serves upwards of 200 customers a day.
With a background in hairdressing, Janelle says Containers for Change is a “far cry” from where she saw herself ending up.
“We heard about Containers for Change and knew it was something we wanted to jump on board with. It started off with just myself, my two cousins and one other employee, and then we rapidly grew from there,” she says.
In just over a year, Advanced Metal Recycling has grown into a full-service depot with 45 staff.
“We get a lot of different people through the depot, lots of families and little kids are getting on board with recycling. Sporting and community groups are also using the scheme. Not only are they doing a good thing by recycling all their containers, but they’re able to use it for fundraising as well,” Janelle says.
“I think we all need to make changes as a nation. We need to band together and be mindful of the footprint we make.”
Hear first-hand from the Change Makers and watch their stories at: containersforchange.com.au/changemakers.
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Container deposit schemes are the first step in changing the way people think about the circular economy and the importance of reusing precious resources, TOMRA’s Ryan Buzzell explains.
The Western Australian Government has deferred the launch of its container deposit scheme Containers for Change due to COVID-19 concerns.
Originally planned to launch June 2, Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the decision to delay the scheme reflects the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 and its expected disruption to refund points.
According to Mr Dawson, the postponement is in accordance with advice from the scheme co-ordinator, WA Return Recycle Renew.
“COVID-19 has resulted in significant global, national and state impacts and there has been disruption across the board for government initiatives and services,” he said.
“The state government, in close consultation with WA Return Recycle Renew and the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, determined that under the COVID-19 environment we are all faced with, there are too many potential health risks and logistical difficulties to start the scheme on June 2, 2020.”
The state government will review the situation in August 2020 to determine whether the scheme’s new start date will be November 2020 or June 2021.
“Delaying the scheme until after the major impacts of COVID-19 are felt will eliminate the public health concerns such as potential risk of infection from handling containers, as well as over-the-counter refund points contravening social distancing,” Mr Dawson said.
“While it is disappointing to be deferring the scheme, we remain committed to delivering the most diverse and accessible scheme in Australia. We will continue to work together and update the community, operators and suppliers throughout this period of uncertainty.”