A National Recycling Agenda: the introduction of Container Deposit Schemes

In Australia, we may believe we are beating the ‘War on Waste’, but in fact, we are ranked 13th in a comparison to other OECD Countries* when it comes to the percentage of our waste which is recycled.1 In a critical report, the Australian Council of Recycling state that “Australia is losing the recycling race” and “with one of the worst rates of waste generation Australia should have a world leading recycling rate.”2

Australia produces 2.23kg of waste per capita per day according to the World Banks’ What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management. This is close to double the global average of 1.2kg per capita per day.3 And, we only recycle 41% of this waste.4

Recycling, along with general waste usage reduction, is therefore paramount to our country’s environmental sustainability. The good news is, there is much every day Australian’s can do to change the status quo.

The recent Australia ABC TV series War on Waste (which aired first on May 16, 2017, on ABC) highlighted our complacency when it comes to waste in Australia. Episode 4 of the series, (which can be viewed now on ABC iView) highlighted the high benefits of Container Deposit Schemes.

Container Deposit Systems (CDS) is dedicated to partnering with local recycling facilities across Australia to drive recycling plant production efficiencies through automated technologies. Over the years, CDS has seen positive changes in both consumer attitudes and industry innovations.

Particularly, over the past 12 months, the recycling agenda has been stronger than ever with state and federal governments developing Container Deposit Schemes and waste agendas across Australia. The new schemes are based on the current South Australian container deposit scheme.

In 1977, South Australia became the first Australian State to introduce a container deposit scheme. 40 years later, this recycling scheme is leading the way for states across the nation. The scheme was relatively simple; an incentive of 10 cents per recycled bottle or can to be given back to the person who recycles it.

Today, it is undeniably clear the scheme works. In the 2016 Australian National Waste Report, SA was the clear leader in resource recovery with a rate of almost 80%. The ACT followed at 75%, then Vic at 69% and NSW at 65%. WA, Tas and Qld (excluding fly ash) recovered about 50% and NT had the lowest recovery rate at an estimated 28%.5

Recycling per capita was also highest in SA followed, in order, by Vic, NSW, ACT, WA, Qld, Tas and NT. South Australia recycles approximately 580 million drink containers every year, and the industry employs more than 5,000 people. Across Australia, recycling rates have increased by an average annual growth rate of 3% since 2006.6 Other states are now seeing the benefits of the SA incentive and are coming on board with new container deposit schemes.

In 2012, the Northern Territory was the second State (Territory) to introduce a container deposit scheme based on the South Australian initiative. The implementation of the scheme saw a recycling percentage increase of 298% over a 9-year period from 2006-7 to 2014-15.7 This figure only includes two complete years of the scheme; which highlights the dramatic improvements.

On 1 December 2017, NSW became the third state to implement a similar container deposit scheme, which is called ‘Run and Return’. In the first weekend, the State opened an additional 200 collection points for recycling, and Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said eventually there would be more than 500 collection points across the state.8 The NSW government has forecast this scheme to reduce the volume of litter by 40% by 2020 – in just 2 years.9

Western Australia has plans to introduce a South Australian style container deposit scheme in mid-2018.10 The state ‘boasts’ the highest number of drink containers in litter compared to any other State and the recycling scheme is planned to support the state achieve similar recycling success to South Australia.11

Queensland has a poor history of recycling, with a 0% increase in recycling over the past 10 years.12 It is this statistic that has encouraged the government to commit to a container deposit scheme by July 1, 2018.13

The ACT will also be implementing a container deposit scheme in 2018, following a public consultation process.14 This process has just closed and more details on the scheme will be available in early 2018.

Victoria and Tasmania are the only remaining states to not commit to a container deposit scheme.

One of the biggest current issues with the new recycling centres is bottles and cans must be in almost perfect form for the recycling machines. This means that many containers are either not recycled properly or create inefficiencies in processing. CDS has implemented systems to manage these processes to ensure high refunds for the customer and cost benefit for the facility.

The adoption of schemes across Australia is highly positive; however, there is still much work to be done to ensure effective recycling occurs. As mentioned, Australia ranks only 13th out of 35 OCED countries when it comes to recycling. To improve our status, Australia needs to continue to drive innovation in recycling to ensure the schemes are beneficial for consumers, business and governments.

As container deposit schemes grow in public take up, it will be vital that our country’s recycling facilities adopt new technologies to manage increased capacity. CDS’ successful implementation of innovative technology and systems will continue to support recycling facilities to dramatically increase their return on investment; and in turn, improve Australia’s recycling position on a global scale.

Find out more about your local Container Deposit Scheme:
South Australia: http://www.epa.sa.gov.au/environmental_info/container_deposit
Northern Territory: https://ntepa.nt.gov.au/container-deposits
New South Wales: http://returnandearn.org.au/
Western Australia: https://www.waliberal.org.au/assets/PartyDocuments/ContainerDeposit-1P.pdf
Queensland: https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/pollution/management/waste/container-refund
Australian Capital Territory: https://www.yoursay.act.gov.au/act-container-deposit-scheme

About Container Deposit Systems (CDS)
CDSA was formed with a vision to oversee the implementation of improved operational practices in recycling facilities. The company offers a range of services to recycling depot facilities to drive productivity improvements and transition traditional recycling facilities into modern technically advanced operators.

CDS achieve this through patented technologies which deliver manufacturing automation to auto-sort materials via a highly sensitive multi-sensor integration. Systems integrations enable facilities to further gain efficiencies through workflows, materials handling, logistic processes, facility layout and design, customer interaction and data acquisition and management.

CDS technologies are designed and manufactured in Australia with local partners Sage Automation and Macweld Engineering.

For more information, please contact us.


*The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has 35 partner countries. More information can be found: http://www.oecd.org/australia/


1. http://www.acor.org.au/uploads/2/1/5/4/21549240/acor_australian_recycling_performance_analysis_2016.pdf
2. http://www.acor.org.au/uploads/2/1/5/4/21549240/acor_australian_recycling_performance_analysis_2016.pdf
3. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/08/which-countries-produce-the-most-waste/
4. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/08/which-countries-produce-the-most-waste/
5. http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/d075c9bc-45b3-4ac0-a8f2-6494c7d1fa0d/files/national-waste-report-2016.pdf
6. http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/d075c9bc-45b3-4ac0-a8f2-6494c7d1fa0d/files/national-waste-report-2016.pdf
7. http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/d075c9bc-45b3-4ac0-a8f2-6494c7d1fa0d/files/national-waste-report-2016.pdf
8. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-02/first-weekend-of-nsw-container-deposit-scheme/9219978
9. https://www.cleanaway.com.au/container-deposit-scheme/
10. https://www.waliberal.org.au/assets/PartyDocuments/ContainerDeposit-1P.pdf
11. https://www.waliberal.org.au/assets/PartyDocuments/ContainerDeposit-1P.pdf
12. http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/d075c9bc-45b3-4ac0-a8f2-6494c7d1fa0d/files/national-waste-report-2016.pdf
13. https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/pollution/management/waste/container-refund
14. https://www.yoursay.act.gov.au/act-container-deposit-scheme