Over 2.7 billion containers returned in NSW

Over 2.7 billion containers have been returned through NSW’s container deposit scheme Return and Earn, as the program celebrates its second birthday.

Parliamentary Environment Secretary James Griffin said Return and Earn now has over five million drink containers returned everyday, with a current redemption rate of 67 per cent of eligible drink containers supplied into NSW.

“This time last year we were celebrating one billion containers returned on the first anniversary of Return and Earn. The growth of the scheme has seen us knocking on the door of three billion a year later,” Mr Griffin said.

“There’s no doubt Return and Earn has been a great success and has fundamentally changed people’s thinking and behavior around litter.”

This summer, users can opt to donate their 10 cent refund to Bottles for the Bush to support fire and drought affected communities, according to Mr Griffin.

“Return and Earn was launched with the aim of reducing litter and it’s doing that. Other flow on benefits have been revealed as people find new ways to utilise the fundraising benefits of the scheme,” Mr Griffin said.

“Alongside scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator TOMRA Cleanaway, we look forward to continuing to work closely with industry to find new and innovative ways to make ‘Returning and Earning’ even easier and continue to grow.”

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Is Victoria ready for a CDS?

With Victoria the only state yet to commit to a container deposit scheme, Waste Management Review speaks with industry stakeholders about scheme potential.

In the absence of an overarching waste policy, Victoria’s waste management and resource recovery sector lacks market certainty and centralised oversight.

As such, an inconsistent approach to waste management created an environment that may have been more attractive to rogue operators.

Challenges arise when bulk processing and limited end markets exist in the same region, as evident in Victoria’s recent spate of non-compliant stockpiles.

Mark Smith, Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA)  Executive Officer, says current procurement practices encouraged a concentration of processing capacities, and this inherently concentrated risk.

Mark adds that the recent SKM Recycling shut down highlights the risks inherent in any system that doesn’t seek to secure end markets for materials and appropriate protocols for any shocks to the system.

“A series of events related to how contracts are written, commodity pricing and how businesses establish themselves brought us to where we are now. It’s not something that happened overnight,” Mark says.

“I believe our current resource recovery issues present an opportunity to change the way government and the private sector operate which must see the private sector as a partner with the government in delivering messages and engaging with the public.”

Mark adds that the introduction of a Victorian container deposit scheme (CDS) could serve as a catalyst for tackling our current recycling issues, but can’t be done in isolation or on its own.

When the Tasmanian Government earlier this year announced it would introduce a CDS by 2023, Victoria became the only state or territory without a scheme forthcoming or in place.

At VWMA’s August State Conference, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio told delegates that the state government had no current plans to develop a CDS. That was, despite demonstrated success in other states. Ms D’Ambrosio recently told the 7:30 report that government is closely watching other states’ CDS closely, a statement she reiterates regularly.

Seeking to offer up potential solutions to Victoria’s recycling and waste management issues, the VWMA hosted a CDS discussion and knowledge transfer event in October. At the event, delegates analysed schemes and results from other states. Mark says the information will be compiled and presented to delegates attending, which included a number of vocal local governments and other associations, such as the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV).

The MAV is similarly active, launching its Rescue Our Recycling action plan earlier this year. The plan identifies five actions each tier of government should take to help achieve a sustainable recycling system, with a CDS nominated as a key action for the Victorian Government.

The MAV’s submission to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Recycling and Waste Management, lodged May 2019, likewise urged the state government to introduce a scheme.

Coral Ross, MAV President, says she is hopeful the parliamentary committee will recommend a scheme be introduced.   

“Container deposit schemes are celebrated for their strong record of success in increasing recovery of beverage containers, reducing waste to landfill, delivering community, environmental and economic
benefits and decreasing litter,” the submission reads.

“In light of trials and studies underway, consideration should also be given to how a separate kerbside collection for glass may complement or supplant a CDS. Either way, it is imperative that the principles of product stewardship and extended producer responsibility apply.”

CRUSHED GLASS

Contamination from crushed glass in the general recycling stream is a central driver for CDS implementation. Another solution however, introducing a fourth kerbside glass bin, is also gaining traction, albeit only in preliminary trialling stages.

The City of Yarra in Melbourne’s inner east launched a kerbside glass collection trial across 1300 households in April, following a successful FOGO collection trial in 2018.

In September, Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council City Works and Assets Director, told Waste Management Review the trial has been successful so far, with a notable decrease in contamination observed.

He added that Yarra will look to expand the service throughout the city upon the trial’s completion.

While Coral applauds the success of individual council trials, she cautions against assuming state-wide implementation would be straightforward and doable.

“There is significant diversity across councils and regions in terms of the recycling services councils offer. Proximity to materials recovery facilities, community willingness and ability to pay, and budget and resource constraints are all relevant considerations,” she says.

“Also, the Yarra and Macedon trials are small scale, so we can’t yet know how the service would work on a state-wide level.”

Another issue, Coral says, is whether or not councils can find a processor to take the material.

“In the case of Moyne Shire Council and their intention to roll-out separate glass collection municipality-wide, we understand that having a ready local end market for that material was key to the council making that decision.” she says.

“Not all councils may be able to achieve that, plus, there’s a real question about Victoria’s infrastructure and beneficiation capacity if 79 councils all start collecting glass separately.”

For these reasons, Coral says the local government sector strongly supports the introduction of a CDS as an immediate state-wide priority. She also notes that she doesn’t consider CDS to be the silver bullet that will fix everything but rather a key component of a suite of reforms needed to improve recycling outcomes.

“We have to remember that removing glass from the general stream not only reduces the contamination of paper and plastic, but enables better quality glass recovery,” she says.

“Ideally we want to see glass bottles and jars remanufactured into glass bottles and jars. Achieving a clean stream of material is key to that.”

Mark has similar infrastructure capacity concerns and issues with a ready market for materials, highlighting the amenity impacts of glass collection in high density areas. He adds that the rise of multi-unit dwellings also needs to be considered when analysing the efficacy of a fourth kerbside bin.

Mark says that waste operators already face bin collection challenges including traffic congestion, level of street access and bin placement – added to that could be a fourth collection round with noisy material.

“How is that going to impact residents? And what will resident pushback look like once those collections start? It’s a concerning proposition for many VWMA members but may also be a broader traffic challenge as well.”

IMPLEMENTATION

A recent Total Environment Centre report shows that 84 per cent of Victorians support the idea of a CDS. However, the state government refuses to heed introduction calls.

According to Mark, a CDS would require systematic changes to how parts of government operate, which may explain their hesitation.

“There hasn’t been a consistent line from the state government on what Victoria’s future recycling program will look like,” he says.

“I think that’s a problem, because we end up tinkering on a lot of little activities instead of looking towards a big fundamental shift and that shift has to take into consideration the direction the other states are taking and the region.”

Many states, including New South Wales and the Northern Territory, position their CDS as a litter management initiative.

Mark say that results from other jurisdictions and globally has seen CDS work as an effective platform to educate and engage with the public on waste, litter and recycling issues.

“The minister has said multiple times that a CDS won’t adequately address current challenges, and yes it wont fix everything, but there’s never going to be a silver bullet,” he says.

“It’s about identifying key challenges for the state, and then chipping away at problems that has support from all the revevant partners in the sector”

Another issue, Mark says, is minimal investment in public waste education from the state government.

“New South Wales has had ongoing public programs to engage the public on recycling and waste for years, while Victoria hasn’t had a state wide program or investment in this space for over 10 years,” he says.

“The state government could utilise a very small component of the Sustainability Fund to finance similar programs here.”

In addition to education, Mark says the state government would need to incentivise end markets for recycled materials that would see greater business uptake of recycled materials but also educating the public to seek out products made with recycled materials.

“If we look at the wider waste situation, the private sector invests $815 million each year, while the state government invests very little, with the bulk of the funds allocated going to infrastructure projects. The private sector have repeatedly spoken about the appetite to invest if they know there is market certainty. For me, this poses a question over the role state governments should play in market intervention,” he says.

“While introducing a CDS will undoubtably require additional costs at the start, what we’ve seen in other states, especially New South Wales, is that the state government only have to make minimal investment for set up and roll-out.”

Mark says government and industry also need to expand their focus beyond the immediate horizon and be conscious of future challenges and the future direction of the region.

“We don’t want to set up a system that in two or three years becomes obsolete, or actually becomes some sort of barrier for embracing a national push on product stewardship, because Victoria decided to introduce a CDS [for example] that is in complete contrast with the rest of the country and region,” he says.

While Coral says a national scheme would be ideal, she believes Victoria needs to start addressing its current challenges now.

“A federal scheme in line with product stewardship was on the table a few years ago but didn’t go anywhere, and now we’ve seen each state roll-out, or commit to rolling out CDS, so it would be a grave mistake for Victoria to sit back and wait for a national CDS,” she says.

“You can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

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CDS collection app launches in ACT

A pick up app for the ACT’s Container Deposit Scheme is now available across the state, following successful trials in Kingston and Gordon.

According to Recycling and Waste Minister Chris Steel, Return-It Collect is a mobile service that allows users to book collections of eligible beverage containers from their business or home.

Mr Steel said containers can be handed over in person or left in a safe place for the driver to collect.

“We want to increase the number of containers deposited, and we recognise that getting local business involved and making it easier for them to return large amounts of containers is the most logical way of doing this,” Mr Steel said.

“Having a collection service is a great way for business to return containers without the hassle of their staff driving potentially thousands of containers to the return points each week.”

Mr Steel said Return-It Collect will charge a fee of four cents per container for the cost of providing the service.

“The app operates a similar way to ride sharing services, so users get real-time updates on when the driver will be arriving, when their containers have been collected, and when they’ve been counted,” Mr Steel said.

Return-It Collect will also allow users to track their environmental impact in terms of energy and greenhouse gas savings, as well as reducing waste to landfill.

“Canberrans really care about our environment and have been early adopters of new technology, such as Uber, which is why the ACT is a natural place for Return-It to launch this innovative new service,” Mr Steel said.

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One billion returns in first year of QLD CDS

In its first year of operations, Queensland’s container deposit scheme Containers for Change has seen one billion containers returned.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the return rate is a third higher than predicted.

“On average, we’re currently seeing more than 3.4 million containers a day being returned across the state,” Ms Enoch said.

“These containers were the second most littered item in our state, but since the scheme started there has been a greater than 35 per cent reduction in containers ending up as litter.”

Ms Enoch said the scheme has also seen $100 million returned to Queenslanders and community groups.

“More and more small businesses are getting involved in running refund points, and charities and community groups are also seeing the benefits through fundraising activities,” Ms Enoch said.

“Ten cents per container adds up; and in the last 12 months more than $100 million has gone back to individuals, families, community groups and charities, including RSPCA Queensland who have raised about $3500 in donated refunds.”

Ms Enoch also announced that the state government is offering funding to more than 100 not-for-profit and community organisations to help the scheme grow, and provide a boost to fundraising efforts.

“The state government is committed to boosting recycling with well over 100 infrastructure grants being offered to not-for-profit organisations,” Ms Enoch said.

“These grants of up to $10,000 will help community groups, charities and not-for-profit organisations purchase the equipment necessary to be donation points, the refunds from these donated containers going directly back to the community group.”

Container Exchange CEO Ken Noye said the scheme is supporting economic and job growth, with more than 700 jobs created across Queensland.

“One of the biggest benefits of the scheme has been the employment opportunities provided to young job-seekers, individuals with a disability, people re-entering the workforce and the long-term unemployed,” Mr Noye said.

“The economic benefits have also reached families, community groups, schools and sporting clubs, as a whole new revenue stream has been created.”

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The convenience model: TOMRA

Markus Fraval, TOMRA Collections Strategy Director, highlights competing Container deposit scheme models and Return and Earn’s success.

When the Tasmanian Government announced it would implement a container deposit scheme (CDS) by 2023, it became the seventh state or territory to do so, leaving Victoria as the single holdout.

The CDS waste collection model is similarly growing overseas, with widespread uptake in North America and Europe. While all CDSs share a common goal, there are multiple implementation models including return to retail, convenience kiosks and large-scale drop-off depots.

Markus Fraval, TOMRA Collections Strategy Director, says most European CDSs operate under a return to retail system. He says this is generally supported by government regulated extended producer responsibility legislation.

“Businesses that sell drink containers are obligated to take the container back in some way, and because it’s so easy, those markets typically achieve 90-per-cent-plus return rates,” he says.

“We commonly employ South Australian style models in Australia, whereby people are required to go out of their way, generally to an industrial area, to return their containers.”

According to Markus, depot models require significant time and organisational commitment from consumers and, as such, are often ineffective. He adds that in lieu of return-to-retail legislation, conveniently positioned reverse vending machine kiosks are a more effective model for Australia.

Markus says despite New South Wales not having the benefit of a return to retail network, the Return and Earn system was designed to be as similar to the European model as possible.

He says this was achieved by positioning reverse vending machine kiosks in shopping centres and supermarket carparks throughout
the state.

“Accessible kiosks allow consumers to participate in the scheme as part of their normal routines and daily habits,” Markus says.

“This provides incentives for positive consumer behavioural change that are not too extreme or inconvenient.”

TOMRA, in a joint venture partnership with Cleanaway, was appointed Return and Earn network operators by the New South Wales Government in 2017.

The role incorporates network design, establishing new drop-off facilities and maintaining the
state’s more than 600 existing collection points.

“We know from our experience in over 40 global deposit markets that the big drivers for successful return rates are deposit value or financial incentive, and the level of returning convenience,” Markus says.

He suggests TOMRA’s focus on convenience and access is the reason that in just under two years, 55 per cent of New South Wales residents have participated in the scheme and return rates have been high.

Since commencing on 1 December 2017, Return and Earn has collected more than two billion containers through a combination of TOMRA kiosks and more traditional depot collection points.

“The first billion containers were collected in the first 12 months of the program, with the next billion collected in the following seven months. This suggests the scheme is still accelerating,” Markus says.

“Return and Earn is now averaging well above four million containers per day.”

While reverse vending machine kiosks represent only half of the total collection points in New South Wales, Markus says approximately 80 per cent of all returns come through TOMRA reverse vending machines.

“It is critical for a successful CDS to have a network of small footprint collection points capable of high capacity collections,” he says.

“It’s also important to facilitate an integrated supply chain that spans collections, logistics and processing.”

Markus says while collection quantity is key, CDSs need to operate as efficiently as possible to keep price impacts at a minimum.

“As network operators, TOMRA Cleanaway has processed well over 100,000 tonnes of material for commodity trading in domestic and international markets,” Markus says.

“For instance, we ship bales of aluminium cans overseas for smelting and remanufacturing into sheet metal, which can then be used to produce new beverage containers.”

Additionally, Markus says roughly half the plastic sold by TOMRA Cleanaway is used for domestic bottle-to-bottle manufacturing, with the remaining half exported oversees to make bottles, textiles and plastic films.

TOMRA’s optical sorting and reverse vending machine technology is available to all operators across the CDS spectrum.

“Our technology scans bottles from 360 degrees, taking one gigabyte of images per second,” Markus says.

“The speed and ease of use of our machines allow TOMRA to collect more than 40 billion containers through reverse vending machines around the world each year.”

According to a recent state government survey, over 85 per cent of New South Wales residents support Return and Earn.

“There are different models out there, and while I think it’s useful for people to understand the success of CDSs more broadly, there is something to be said for the New South Wales model,” Markus says.

“It is undoubtedly the most convenient scheme in Australia.”

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VWMA CDS discussion dinner

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) is hosting a dinner on 23 October, where attendees will hear from industry experts about container deposit scheme (CDS) implementation and results.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the event will examine what Victoria and Tasmania can learn from CDS roll outs in NSW, ACT, QLD, WA and SA.

Mr Smith said New Zealand is also in the process of implementing its own national scheme.

“CDS’s aim to reduce the amount of beverage container litter and increase the amount of recycling through financial incentives,” Mr Smith said.

“However, not all schemes and rollouts workout to be the the same. What can Victoria and Tasmania learn from the States leading on this front?”

Mr Smith said the event, which is part of Waste Expo Australia, is open to all attendees and anyone interested in the topic of CDS’s.

“In addition to a scrumptious dinner and drinks, we’ve organised experts to present on a state by state comparison of CDS, and an overview of what happens with the cashflow of these schemes,” Mr Smith said.

“Big thanks to event sponsors MRA Consulting Group and RSM Group for making this event possible.”

For more information click here.

Return and Earn consumer research released

According to recent Return and Earn consumer research, eight out of 10 residents are satisfied with the New South Wales container deposit scheme (CDS), and over two-thirds believe it contributes to long-term recycling outcomes for the state.

TOMRA Cleanaway CEO James Dorney applauded the New South Wales community for their role in the scheme’s success.

“The success of the scheme is a testament to the incredible efforts of the NSW community who in July, returned and earned more than two billion containers in just 19 months since the scheme began,” Mr Dorney said.

“The survey showed that more than half of NSW residents are using the scheme, which in turn demonstrates how easy access to drop-off points and a well-planned network of collections and recovery infrastructure are critical to the success of any recycling system.”

According to the survey, 55 per cent of the New South Wales population have used the scheme, up from 48 per cent in December 2018.

Additionally, the survey showed that 78 per cent believe the scheme will benefit the environment.

Cleanaway Solid Waste General Manager David Clancy said the scheme had far exceeded expectations, reaching one billion containers in a year and two billion in 19 months.

Mr Clancy estimates that Return and Earn is likely to hit three billion containers before the end of 2019, accounting for almost half of all beverage containers sold in the state.

“Container deposit or refund schemes incentivise customers to return their drink containers to collection points in exchange for a refund,” Mr Clancy said.

“They are a perfect example of delivering on the triple bottom line of sustainability – there’s less litter in the environment, refunds can be used to benefit local community groups, associations and charities, and finally recycled containers become a part of the circular economy, extending the use of existing materials while reducing reliance on natural resources.”

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QLD CDS reaches 800M returns

More than 800 million containers have been returned across Queensland, since the state’s Containers for Change scheme began in November 2018.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the milestone was reached while Parliament was sitting in Townsville.

“We know Townsville residents care about recycling because of the amazing results we’ve seen through the scheme, with more than 59 million containers in this region alone, including more than 6.4 million in just the month of August,” Ms Enoch said.

Ms Enoch said the scheme’s popularity has exceeded expectations, with the volume of returned containers roughly three times higher than predicted.

“As more and more Queenslanders have been getting on board with this recycling scheme, businesses are embracing the economic and job opportunities,” Ms Enoch said.

According to Ms Enoch, there are more than 300 operating container refund points across the state, with an average of three million containers returned each day.

“With more than 800 million containers now returned across the state, this means $80 million has been refunded to individuals and families, charities and community organisations,” Ms Enoch said.

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Melbourne backs CDS plan

The City of Melbourne has joined other Victorian councils in calling for the state government to introduce container deposit legislation into parliament.

The campaign was started by the Municipal Association of Victoria, with backing from the City of Frankston, City of Darebin and City of Port Phillip.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said a container deposit scheme (CDS) would help reduce plastic and glass sent to landfill.

“The recycling system is broken and we need to harness community and industry support to fix it,” Ms Capp said.

“We need to reward individuals and community groups who are doing the right thing when it comes to recycling. It’s time to provide an incentive for people who collect bottles and cans and give back to the community.”

Melbourne Environment Chair Cathy Oke said Victoria and Tasmania are the only Australian states yet to commit to a scheme.

The Tasmanian Government announced it would implement a CDS by 2023 in June, but legislation is yet to be enacted.

“South Australian first introduced their scheme in 1977, leading the nation on waste management. They currently offer a 10 cent deposit and refund on beverage containers,” Ms Oke said.

“Introducing a similar scheme in Victoria would help reduce litter while providing a commodity that could be used by our local industry.”

Ms Oke said the scheme could include manually operated or automated reverse vending machines, that would give credit for each item deposited.

“Victorians are looking for answers to the waste crisis, so it’s time we helped people do their bit to help create a stronger recycling sector,” Ms Oke said.

“Along with reducing litter, the scheme would ensure the beverage supplier industry takes greater responsibility for packaging, and rewards individuals, community groups, sporting clubs and charities for picking up littered beverage containers.”

Following SKM’s decision to no longer accept recyclable materials, the City of Melbourne has been forced to send 45 tonnes of recycling to landfill each day.

Ms Oke said SKM sorts 50 per cent of Victoria’s kerbside recycling – close to 300,000 tonnes a year.

“More than $500 million of landfill levy income collected by Victorian Councils is available in the state government’s Sustainability Fund and could be invested to increase capacity in the local recycling sector,” Ms Oke said.

“We need the state government to unlock the funds councils have collected from landfill levies and invest in new technologies to transform our waste and resource recovery sector.”

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QLD’s Containers for Change hits 700 million returns

More than 700 million containers have been returned across Queensland since the Containers for Change scheme started nine months ago.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the scheme’s popularity had far exceeded expectations, with the volume of returned containers roughly three times higher than predicted.

“As more and more Queenslanders have been getting on board with this recycling scheme, businesses are embracing the economic and job opportunities,” Ms Enoch said.

“There are now 307 refund points open, which was the target set for 1 November this year. This means the scheme is three months ahead of schedule, which is amazing.”

Ms Enoch said the program had returned $70 million to individuals and families, charities and community organisations.

“Our state is a much cleaner place thanks to people’s overwhelming enthusiasm to cash in their containers, with an average of around three million containers being returned per day,” Ms Enoch said.

“More than 193,000 Queenslanders are now registered under the scheme, which has also helped create more than 600 new jobs across Queensland.”

According to Ms Enoch, Queensland has seen a 35 per cent reduction in containers ending up as litter since the scheme was implemented.

“This scheme is making a real difference in greatly reducing the amount of plastic pollution ending up in our waterways and environment.”

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