Why Have Container Deposit Schemes Been So Successful?

Container Deposit Schemes (CDS) have been successfully implemented into most Australian states, with the largest state, Western Australia, planning to roll out statewide in July 2020. Why are container deposit schemes so successful? Why do we need one here in NZ?

First of all, what is a container deposit scheme?

Also known as a ‘return and earn scheme’, it’s a government program that encourages consumers to return their used packaging in exchange for a small amount of money. Most commonly a CDS will collect aluminium cans, plastic drink bottles, glass bottles etc. You can see what is collected in each Australian state with an interactive map from Planet Ark here.

Benefits of CDS can include:

1. Clarity & communication

It’s clear to all what is and isn’t included, often recycling schemes are ineffective due to a lack of awareness and understanding. With a CDS it's clearly communicated at a regional or country level as to what is included and what's not.

2. Product stewardship

A CDS is a type of product stewardship that passes the cost and responsibility of waste management and recycling back to the manufacturers. This means that they need to consider the lifecycle of their products and packaging in the design process.

3. Helping to keep our public spaces clean

Single-use packaging such as PET is one of the most common forms of litter as people purchase them when visiting our parks, beaches and other public spaces. Often recycling receptacles aren’t available in these spaces, and light plastic containers are at risk of flying out due to wind making their way into the natural environment. With a CDS people are more likely to hold onto their packaging to return and earn.

Image from i OS 5

4. Creating community opportunities

Collecting and returning these products also become a simple and effective way of fundraising for charities and not-for-profit organisations. Whether they act as a collection or drop off station for their local communities, or walk around parks and beaches collecting the remaining containers that are dropped. Charities in South Australia raised $60 million in 2018 through returning containers and clean up projects.

5. Consumer motivation

Ultimately the success of a CDS is that consumers are motivated to return their recyclables for financial gain. We know that people can become complacent when it comes to recycling, so this provides incentive at an individual and organisational level to return and earn.

6. Recycle more & waste less

Increased recycling rates, we can’t go past the fact that with a CDS recycling rates increase substantially. South Australia boasts an impressive 80% return rate.

KB060 WHI CON F copy Method's Container Deposit Scheme Recycling Bin for Australia

7. Collect valuable resources

The containers that are most commonly recycled ie. plastic or glass drink bottles, aluminium cans etc are some of the most valuable forms of recyclables. The materials are easier and more commonly recycled and repurposed. Further, with an established collection scheme there is increased motivation to create onshore recycling facilities for these materials.

8. Creates a collective culture of responsibility

Last, but certainly not least, a CDS receives increased publication and advertising, as governmental departments want to see their schemes succeed. Becoming a community issue with an increased budget. Previously this has been predominantly motivated by consumers pushing waste providers.

With increased awareness and governmental buy-in, it’s fostering a collective sense of responsibility where all groups have the ability to make a difference; from government departments and councils to manufacturers and finally consumers.

It's a pivotal time for the New Zealand recycling system, and there have been organisations campaigning to introduce a CDS into NZ such as Action Station. Particularly with the government's current plan to introduce a regulated product stewardship scheme for problematic products, it's looking increasingly promising that a CDS will be implemented. We here at Method will be supporting this program and we hope that you'll join us so we can see the impact it can make in our own backyard.

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