State Profile: why South Australia is leading the war on waste

Container Deposit Systems’ head office is located in South Australia and we are proud to be part of the country’s most dedicated state when it comes to the war on waste.

South Australia has an incredibly impressive waste management record compared to all other states and territories.  There is no coincidence that this performance is driven by more than 40 years of government legislation and a culture dedicated to positive waste management.   

The 2016, Australian National Waste Report states that “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%.” [1]

 Recovery Rates Australia.png

The report highlights South Australia’s success is due to:

  • a moderate landfill levy
  • a well-established container deposit scheme
  • the use of high calorific C&D wastes to generate energy
  • a history of progressive waste management policies and state government investment in infrastructure, market development and education programs.

The success of recycling has further positive economic benefits for South Australia. This includes creating a $1Billion recycling industry and approx. 4,800 direct jobs.[2] Green Industries SA states that every 10,000 tonnes of waste recycled creates 9.2 full time jobs.[3]

The combined environmental, economic and social benefits of the state’s waste incentives positions South Australia as the country’s leading innovator in waste management.  Container Deposit Systems has taken a closer look at three key strategies South Australia has implemented to establish itself as the nation leader in the war on waste.

1.       Container Deposit Schemes

Since 1977, South Australia has been considered the nation’s leader in recycling initiatives.  The state was well ahead of it’s time implementing the first Container Deposit Scheme in the country.[4] Australia’s second scheme was not implemented until 2012 in the Northern Territory – 35 years later.  The success of the scheme is evident in the fact that today Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland are in the process of implementing schemes.

The simple scheme offers a 10c refund for or people depositing bottles or cans for recycling. The EPA has created a diagram for how the scheme works:

 Container Deposit Scheme Refund Process.jpg.png

Ultimately the cost of the 10cents is incorporated into the cost of the container (can / bottle) and consumers are refunded this cost when they deliver the empty container back to the collection depot.  The system has been so successful that South Australia has the highest recycling rates in the country and in 2006, South Australia's container deposit scheme was declared a heritage icon by the National Trust of South Australia.


2.       Uniting the community in the war against waste

The South Australian Government has invested heavily in marketing and education programs designed to encourage positive waste management.  The investment is a result of the Zero Waste SA Act 2004; which led to the South Australia’s Waste Strategy 2005–2010. Since 2003, $59.9 million of waste levy funds have gone into programs and projects that have stimulated councils, businesses and the community to reduce, recover, reuse and recycle, and cut the volume of waste going directly to landfill.[5] The Act highlighted the importance of not just investment in infrastructure, but in education programs for schools, communities and businesses.

An example of this is Green Industries SA’s school initiative: Wipe Out Waste (WOW) Program:  The program is designed to work with schools, children and local communities to reduce, reuse and recycle.  WOW is funded by Green Industries SA and delivered by KESAB environmental solutions.  The WOW school education program is an action from the Zero Waste SA Act 2004; South Australia’s Waste Strategy 2005–2010 and has been in place since 2005.

In addition to school-based programs, Green Industries SA also works with local councils and private industry to offer training programs to community groups and organisation.  Majority of councils in South Australia offer these services. 


3.       Investment in long term policies

South Australia has focused on establishing long term achievable waste strategies. A UN HABITAT report, Solid Waste Management in the World’s Cities states aspects of South Australia’s waste and resource management as global best practice.[6]

Long term initiatives implemented by the South Australian Government have included;

  • 2009 – An Australian first ban on checkout-style plastic bags was introduced; consumers encouraged to bring reusable bags to all shopping centres. Consumers can purchase recyclable plastic bags at checkouts if required.
  • 2010 - Landfill bans are implemented; in response to the 2010 Waste to resources policy,[7] the government placed a ban on a range of items ending up in Landfill. This included computer monitors, TV’s, fluoro lights and aggregated PET / HDPE plastic packaging.
  • 2016 – Landfill Levy increase is agreed; the solid waste levy in South Australia will increase from $62 to $103 a tonne by 2020. This will result in an additional $64 million of new expenditure that will be re-invested towards industry development for employment growth, promote recycling and to reduce carbon emissions. Both government and industry agree on the reforms.

These long-term policies have, and will continue to, support South Australia meet the high waste management demand. The proof of these strategies is clear. The UN HABITAT report further stated that; South Australians are highly environmentally conscious. Since the adoption of container deposit legislation (CDL) over 30 years ago, which imposed a deposit fee on packaging such as beers and soft drinks, and also due to the acute water shortages in the state, South Australians are used to working for the environment and expect the same standards from their industry and government. The sophisticated nature of the industrial sector in Australia, combined with the tendency towards large nationally operating companies mean that all stages of the waste management process are well developed and regulated, and are capital/technology intensive rather than labour intensive. [8]


Looking to the future

The South Australian Government has commented in the National Waste Report saying that the State’s “greatest opportunities in waste management exist in diverting more material from waste currently destined for landfill, and new technology that can make marginal recycling viable.”[9]

As a proud South Aussie business, Container Deposit Systems believes South Australia has the opportunity to drive new recycling technology and innovations. The company is working with recycling facilities in South Australia and nationally to drive production efficiency and implement new technologies to improve industry output.

With factors such as the potential end of exporting of recycled material, and rapidly increasing plastic crisis, South Australia is in the ideal position to be the hub of recycling innovation and again, be a leader for Australia to tackle and win the war on waste.


About Container Deposit Systems Australia

Container Deposit Systems Australia 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.

The company 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. 

Container Deposit Systems Australia technologies are designed and manufactured in Australia with local partners Sage Automation and Macweld Engineering.

For more information, please contact us directly.