Western Australia to ‘cash in’ on new Container Deposit Scheme

Western Australia has been planning its container deposit scheme since mid-2016, announcing at the time that the scheme was expected to launch in mid-2018.[1] During that announcement, then Environment Minister Albert Jacob said the scheme would complement WA's recycling culture and that he had been persuaded to push the scheme forward by the success of similar schemes in other states and territories.  He went on to say that “South Australia records higher recycling rates than any other State and significantly less beverage container litter and WA has the highest percentage of drinks containers in our litter.  I believe a scheme will make a big difference in this State.”[2]

At the same time in 2016, New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory were also looking to South Australia to develop their own container deposit schemes. Out of the four states, Western Australia remains the only one that has not yet implemented its vision.

But this is about to change.

Whilst there had been minimal movement for the west container deposit scheme over the past 24months, a bill passed in March this year has ensured the project is now streaming ahead; and the government is wanting communities to cash in on recycling.[3]

On the 31st May 2019 Planning Minister Rita Saffioti stated: “The State Government is committed to delivering a State-wide container deposit scheme by 2020.” And further that “encouraging more recycling in the community is a priority of the McGowan Government and we can achieve better outcomes by setting guidelines through the planning system."[4]

An ambitious waste agenda

The new container deposit scheme is a direct response to the government’s Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030.[5] The strategy has a range of ambitious goals including a 20 per cent reduction in waste generation per capita and a 75% rate of material recovery by 2030.

To commit to achieving these goals, the government is investing $4.4 million to implement the container deposit scheme with $3.1 million allocated for implementation and oversight in the next four years.[6] Projections estimate the new container deposit scheme will result in 706 million fewer beverage containers littered by 2037 and reduce the number of containers sent to landfill by 5.9 million.[7]

Whilst ambitious, the targets are possible and the government is already beginning to outline the additional economic benefits for households, communities and the waste industry.

Helping communities to ‘cash in’

Community education and support is vital in the success of a container deposit scheme and the Western Australian state government has placed ‘customer convenience’ as a high priority to ensure all Western Australians can easily return their beverage containers.[8]  Like other schemes in Australia, the transactional financial benefit for households is a 10c refund when containers are returned to an approved refund collection point. However, one of the challenges for all states in Australia (and even more so for Western Australia) is ensuring both metropolitan and regional communities have access to the program; as reduced access means reduced results.

To mitigate this risk, the Western Australian government has released a Container Deposit Scheme Infrastructure Position Statement which is designed to provide guidance to local governments and ensure the roll-out of the new scheme is effective, efficient and serves the needs of the community. The high-level policy objectives commit to ensuring:

  • a coordinated approach to the provision of CDS infrastructure throughout WA
  • that appropriate locations are chosen for the installation of CDS infrastructure
  • the timely rollout of infrastructure in support of the scheme’s establishment and ongoing operational needs
  • the program establishes minimum development requirements to exempt certain CDS infrastructure from requiring planning approval, for adoption by local governments.

It is obvious that the high interaction with local governments and communities means the Western Australian state government is determined to get the rollout right.

Creating a win-win-win program

Arguably, the key to the success of container deposit schemes is ensuring programs are built under a model by which ‘everybody wins.’  The Western Australian model is focused on achieving just that.  Current Environment Minister Stephen Dawson highlighted that the new program is not just a win for the environment, but also for the economy stating that “Not only will our container deposit scheme divert waste from landfill, it is expected to create some 500 jobs at new container sorting and processing facilities and refund points, and the transportation of containers across the State.” He further told the press that he was “confident the scheme will not only reduce litter and increase recycling throughout WA, but provide business opportunities for social enterprises and help charities and community organisations raise money to fund vital community work.”[9]

Growing the business of recycling

The investment from governments across the nation in new container deposit schemes has resulted in a new wave of technology and opportunities for recycling depots. The one benefit of the Western Australian program delay is that the government can review the successful community programs implemented in other states such as the Containers for Change system in Queensland and Return and Earn in New South Wales

Both states have seen a wave of new business opportunities via the establishment of collection points, as well as an increase in recycling facilities who are leveraging the market demand for a 10c refund. Further, facilities are investing in automated technologies like never before in order to attract more customers and streamline efficiencies.

Container Deposit Systems has also seen a mass increase in this trend. The company estimated 15 sites would take up its award-winning automation technology by the end of 2019; there are now 43 sites across Australia as of June 2019.

The Western opportunity

With the implementation of the new western container deposit scheme imminent, recycling facilities have the exciting opportunity to start planning now.  A concern for Queensland[10] and New South Wales[11] was that there were mass line ups at facilities when the programs began.  The key to reducing line ups, and thus gaining more customers, is streamlining the process for both customers and operators.

Investment in recycling technology needs to be a priority for recycling facilities; and businesses that make this investment will reap the rewards as they become the favoured return points over competitors.

In a 9 News interview regarding container return terminals in Queensland, customers stated they preferred, and would travel further, to use the automated terminal as it "was a lot easier".

The combination of heavy government investment and effort, household buy-in and local community/government support means the new scheme is primed for success.  It's now up to businesses and the industry to leverage this exciting opportunity and support all in Western Australian to cash in on the new scheme.


About Container Deposit Systems

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

For more information, please contact us directly.  



[1] https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/Barnett/2016/08/Cash-back-for-drink-containers-to-help-recycling.aspx
[2] https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/Barnett/2016/08/Cash-back-for-drink-containers-to-help-recycling.aspx
[3] https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/McGowan/2019/05/Planning-guidance-to-help-communities-cash-in-on-recycling.aspx
[4] https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/McGowan/2019/05/Planning-guidance-to-help-communities-cash-in-on-recycling.aspx
[5] http://www.wasteauthority.wa.gov.au/media/files/documents/Waste_Avoidance_and_Resource_Recovery_Strategy_2030.pdf
[6] https://www.communitynews.com.au/western-suburbs-weekly/news/wa-state-budget-2019-container-deposit-scheme-on-its-way/
[7] http://wastemanagementreview.com.au/wa-waste-avoidance-recovery-bill/
[8] https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/McGowan/2019/05/Planning-guidance-to-help-communities-cash-in-on-recycling.aspx
[9] https://thewest.com.au/news/deposit-scheme-to-reduce-rubbish-ng-b881135431z
[10] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-23/container-refund-scheme-sees-mountain-of-cans/10736630
[11] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-02/first-weekend-of-nsw-container-deposit-scheme/9219978