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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Grants open for WA CDS donation and refund points

The Western Australian Government is offering $200,000 in community grants to support the introduction of state’s upcoming container deposit scheme Containers for Change.

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said not-for-profit organisations, schools and community groups can apply for a grant of up to $2000 to help them establish a donation or refund point for beverage containers.

“The grants, which will be administered by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, can be used for infrastructure such as bins, cages, skips, security stands, fences, tippers, sorting equipment and trailers,” he said.

According to Mr Dawson, priority will be given to applicants providing employment outcomes for people with disability, the long-term unemployed, and under-served remote and regional areas.

“We know from other states where container deposit schemes have been introduced that the 10-cent refund for eligible containers creates great opportunities for the whole community – from jobs, to local fundraising, to environmental benefits,” he said.

“I encourage anyone who is interested in this great initiative to register their attendance at their nearest community information session.”

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WA announces CDS operators

Refund point operators have been announced for Western Australia’s new container deposit scheme, ahead of its 2 June launch.

According to Premier Mark McGowan, sixty-five entities have been selected to deliver 145 refund points.

“WA’s first container deposit scheme, Containers for Change, is taking shape, and it’s pleasing to see so many organisations from all sectors of the community getting on board,” Mr McGowan said.

“Around 40 per cent of refund points will be operated by social enterprises, including charities, disability sector organisations, Aboriginal corporations and sporting and community groups.”

Mr McGowan said refund points will be established in every region across the state, from the Kimberley to the Great Southern.

“Today’s announcement is just the starting point for the Containers for Change network, which will grow significantly in coming months and years,” he said.

“The number of refund points across the state will grow to at least 172 by June, and to 229 by the end of the scheme’s first year.”

Logistics and processing applicants have also been selected, with state-of-the-art compacting trucks and on-site compacting to be used for the first time in an Australian container deposit scheme.

“This will mean less heavy vehicle movements on Western Australian roads – the equivalent of one truck instead of five,” Mr McGowan 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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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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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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WA announces CDS launch date

Western Australian Environment Minister Stephen Dawson has announced the state’s new container deposit scheme, Containers for Change, will launch June 2, 2020.

Western Australians will be able to return and recycle their eligible containers at any Containers for Change refund point and receive a 10 cents refund per container.

“Our June 2 start date will give the local charities and businesses, that will operate refund points and be providers in the scheme, enough time to organise the infrastructure and staffing they need to make their participation a success from day one,” Mr Dawson said.

More than 170 full-time or flexible refund points will be open for business in June next year, with 229 refund points to open by the end of the scheme’s first year.

“An array of refund points will be available – from over-the-counter depots providing on-the-spot refunds, to ‘Bag Drops’ that provide the convenience of a ‘drop and go’ facility, with refunds deposited into customers nominated bank accounts once their containers are counted,” Mr Dawson said.

“Mobile refund points and reverse vending machines will also be in operation.”

Mr Dawson said beverage containers account for 44 per cent of all litter by volume in Western Australia.

“WA’s container deposit scheme will create positive change for our environment by encouraging people not to litter, and provide a fundraising opportunity for schools and community groups across the state,” Mr Dawson said.

“Containers for Change is a great win for WA’s environment, for jobs, for our local community and sporting groups always looking for new ways to raise much-needed funds, and for our kids to learn about the benefits of recycling.”

According to Mr Dawson, over the next 20 years the scheme is estimated to result in 706 million fewer beverage containers littered, 6.6 billion fewer beverage containers sent to landfill and 5.9 billion more containers being recycled.

“Containers for Change will also help create 500 jobs across the state, with a key objective of the scheme to support employment of people with disability and the long-term unemployed,” Mr Dawson said.

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Queenslanders recycle 50M containers in four weeks

More than 50 million drink containers have been returned during the first month of Queensland’s container refund scheme, Containers for Change, with almost $5 million in refunds being refunded.

Within the first four weeks, more than 60,000 Queenslanders have signed up to receive the 10-cent refund, alongside the creation of more than 500 jobs to support the scheme across the state.

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Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the scheme has been a smash hit and helps reduce the number of containers that end up in landfill or as litter.

“This is a phenomenal result in only four weeks and we have to remember this is just the very beginning for Queensland’s container refund scheme, Containers for Change,” Ms Enoch said.

“Queenslanders use nearly three billion containers every year and sadly they are the second most commonly littered item in the environment, despite the fact they can be easily recycled.

“Charities and community groups are also getting involved with over 1000 having registered with the scheme, sharing in the donation of refunds, to support vital community services,” she said.

Ms Enoch also praised the efforts of the container refund operators and said the results of their work speak for themselves.

“Many of these operators are small family-run businesses and I want to congratulate these operators for their hard work in getting the refund points up and running and Queenslanders for their support,” she said.

Container Exchange CEO Ken Noye said the scheme provides opportunities for organisations to help their communities.

“It provides unprecedented opportunities for these bodies to raise funds for much-needed resources, especially smaller organisations which have to compete for funding in the not-for-profit-sector,” Mr Noye said.

“Queensland will benefit from the 500 new jobs being created around the state to implement and operate the scheme, and that’s good news for people who want to work within the scheme.”

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