Meet the change makers: Container Exchange

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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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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QLD container refund scheme hits half a billion returns

Half a billion containers have been returned and more than 640 jobs created through Queensland’s container refund scheme, Containers for Change.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said more than 173,000 Queenslanders now have a scheme ID, which shows the state is getting behind the initiative.

“Containers for Change continues to go from strength to strength, providing financial incentives for recycling cans and bottles,” Ms Enoch said.

“The scheme has also helped create more than 640 new jobs and is providing more business opportunities across Queensland.”

Ms Enoch said $50 million had been returned to Queenslanders, charities and community organisations through the scheme.

“When people take their bottles and cans to be recycled, they can choose to get the 10 cent refund or choose to donate that money to charities or community groups,” Ms Enoch said.

“About 3400 community groups, schools, charities and sports clubs are benefitting from the refunds.”

Ms Enoch said since the scheme started on 1 November 2019, there has been a 35 per cent reduction of containers ending up as litter in the environment.

“This scheme, along with the ban on single-use plastic bags also implemented last year, are making a real difference to plastic pollution ending up in our environment and waterways,” Ms Enoch said.

Container Exchange, the organisation that runs the scheme, Chair Mark O’Brien said new refund depots have been opening up across the state in recent weeks.

“We now have more than 275 container refund points providing customer access to container refunds,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Container Exchange will continue to grow the Containers for Change scheme to provide opportunities for customers, charities and community groups to receive refunds and raise funds.”

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400 million returns for QLD container refund scheme

Queensland’s container refund scheme Containers for Change, has seen the return of 400 million containers since beginning in December.

The scheme, which is run by not-for profit organisation Container Exchange, provides a 10-cent refund for recycling cans and bottles.

Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the scheme has generated $40 million for residents and community organisations.

“It provides a financial incentive to recycling containers, and there is also the option for people to donate their refunds to charities and community organisations,” Ms Enoch said.

“Container redemption volumes are about a third higher than forecast, and Containers for Change continues to defy expectations.”

Ms Enoch said containers are the second most commonly littered item in the state, with Queenslanders using nearly three billion every year.

“More refund points are becoming established, creating more business opportunities and making the scheme more accessible for Queenslanders,” Ms Enoch.

“The scheme has also created more than 620 jobs across Queensland, which is fantastic.”

Container Exchange CEO Ken Noye said when the program launched it had 230 container refund points statewide, which over five months has grown to 270.

“We’re now seeing things settle down at most depots and bag drop-off points due to a steady increase in the number of container refund points around the state,” Mr Noye said.

Seven new deposit points are scheduled to open by the end of April at Hervey Bay, Atherton, Bribie Island, Cooroy, Yamanto, Airlie Beach and Beaudesert.

Regional breakdown:

  • Greater Brisbane: 174.2 million
  • Gold Coast: 36.8 million
  • Sunshine Coast: 19.9 million
  • South East (including Ipswich): 3.5 million
  • Darling Downs: 28 million
  • Wide Bay: 35.9 million
  • Fitzroy/Central Queensland: 30.6 million
  • Mackay: 11.9 million
  • Townsville/North Queensland: 33.3 million
  • Cairns/Far North Queensland: 26.5 million
  • South West: 5.9 million

Total: 406.5 million

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QLD Containers for Change recycles 5M in first week

More than five million containers have been returned and recycled in the first week of Queensland’s Containers for Change container deposit scheme.

As part of the scheme, Queenslanders are able to get 10 cents back for returning bottles and cans across one of the schemes 230 sites.

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The scheme uses a mixture of over the counter depots, reverse vending machines, mobile and pop up refund points and drop off points.

Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said that more than half a million dollars have gone back towards Queenslanders or charities and community groups because of the scheme.

“We’ve also seen some great recycling happening in regional areas. More than 780,000 containers have been returned in Wide Bay, and more than 770,000 in Townsville,” Ms Enoch said.

“Queenslanders use nearly three billion containers a year, and sadly they are the most commonly littered item in the environment.

“This scheme has created about 500 new jobs, with people starting work at container refund points across the state,” she said.

Container Exchange (CoEx) is the company responsible for implementing and managing the scheme.

CoEx CEO Ken Noye said it was great to see more than five million containers recycled in a week.

“People are able to support local community groups by donating their containers and we encourage social purpose organisations to sign up for the scheme,” Mr Noye said.

“We also now have 27,000 people signed up with a scheme ID, allowing them to be paid their refund straight into their bank account.

“We’d love to see communities get behind Containers for Change to raise funds for schools, sporting clubs and other not-for-profits,” he said.

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