- Getting refunds at depots
- Industry information
- CDL and kerbside
- The good news
- National proposal and other jurisdiction
Where can I take my beverage containers to get a refund?
Most beverage containers sold in South Australia can be returned to collection depots for a refund.
There are 132 approved collection depots located throughout metropolitan and regional areas of South Australia.
A very small number of beverage containers are eligible for a refund from the place of purchase. These containers have a refund marking which states that a refund is available at points of sale, and can be returned to any retailer which sells that product. You cannot take these containers to a collection depot for a refund.
Which containers can I get refunds for?
Refunds are available for a wide range of beverage containers but only if:
- containers bear the approved refund marking
- they were purchased in South Australia.
Why doesn’t the container deposit scheme apply to all beverage containers?
The container deposit scheme started in 1977 to reduce the litter problem created by littered beverage containers and over time it has been extended to cover other frequently littered containers used for bottled waters, small flavoured milk drinks, sports drinks, spirit based ready to drink beverages (whisky, cola, etc).
However, glass containers for wine and spirits and also larger fruit juice and flavoured milk containers (one litre and above) are not usually found in the litter stream because most of these beverages are consumed at home, or at licensed premises. These containers are generally recovered by kerbside recycling.
Why was I asked to sign a declaration form and provide personal details when I returned a large number of containers?
The South Australian container deposit scheme is only for containers sold in South Australia. Details provided on the declaration forms enable the EPA to monitor and follow up on the delivery of large volumes of containers to depots.
A maximum penalty of $30,000 can apply to persons who seek refunds on beverage containers sold outside of South Australia. Penalties also apply to persons providing false information on the declaration forms.
Do I have to sort my containers before taking them to a depot?
No. There is no obligation for you to sort containers before taking them to a collection depot, although there may be some benefits if you do .
Sorting and counting your containers into the various material types such as the different plastics, glass, aluminium and cartons and making a written note of the number of each container type may save time at the depot.
Do I need to remove the lids from containers before taking them to the collection depot?
There is no legal requirement to remove the tops/lids from beverage containers before taking them to a collection depot, but it helps If you do because:
- plastic tops are usually a different plastic than the bottle, separating the plastics is better for recycling
- leaving tops on containers can cause problems with transport and storage.
- you can put your tops with similar plastics in a separate container and ask your depot if they will accept these when you return your containers for refund.
- removing the tops/lids from containers may save time at the depot.
Will depots accept crushed or flattened cans or containers with missing labels?
Collection depots are not obliged to accept containers that do not have a refund statement clearly visible.
Although squashing and flattening cans makes it easier to collect and store, it does cause problems at depots as operators are unable to determine whether the containers are approved, have refund markings and/or whether they have been sold in SA or in another state.
Can a collection depot refuse to accept my containers?
Yes. There are several reasons why a collection depot operator may refuse to accept your containers:
- they are unclean or contaminated (ie containing paint, needles, etc),
- the refund marking is illegible or not visible.
- the depot operator believe that the containers were not sold in SA and may have been purchased interstate, or
- if a person refuses to complete a declaration when asked to do so by the depot.
I want to sell beverage containers in South Australia. What do I need to do?
Beverages covered by the provisions of the Environment Protection Act 1993 must carry an approved refund marking and must be approved by the EPA before being sold or distributed for sale in South Australia.
A waste management arrangement (WMA) must be established to guarantee the payment of refunds to consumers and the aggregation of empty containers for recycling.
A one-off fee applies for the EPA to assess and process your application. Please refer to the guidelines and application forms.
What is the correct refund statement that must appear on beverage containers?
In South Australia, one of the following two approved refund statements must be used:
‘10c refund at collection depots when sold in SA’
‘10c refund at SA/NT collection depots in State/Territory of purchase’
'10c refund at collection depots/points in participating State/Territory of purchase'
I would like to open a collection depot, what do I need to do?
Collection depots must be approved by the EPA which, on application, will consider what arrangement is in place to ensure consumers are paid the full refund amount and the containers are collected for recycling. You should also obtain the required development approval before applying for approval to operate as a collection depot.
If I give beverages (such as promotional drinks in bottles) away, do they need to comply with container deposit legislation?
Yes. Regardless of the quantity of beverages you supply, or whether you want to give them away as samples or distribute them for promotional purposes, your beverages must be approved by the EPA to ensure that arrangements are in place for the provision of the refund and to ensure the containers are collected for recycling.
The definition of 'sell' in the Environment Protection Act 1993 includes:
(a) supply on a gratuitous basis for commercial promotional purposes; and
(b) offer or display for sale or such supply.
Please refer to the guidelines and application forms.
What do the numbers in the triangle mean on the bottom of plastic containers?
The numbers are a coding system developed and used by the plastic and recycling industries to identify the type of plastic the item is made from. It is not a recycling symbol.
Do container deposit schemes work with kerbside recycling schemes?
Yes, they work perfectly together. South Australia has the best of both worlds with an excellent kerbside recycling infrastructure and a world class container deposit scheme that achieves particularly high return rates.
Kerbside recycling is an excellent way to recover a wide range of household packaging. However, kerbside collections only capture containers for beverages that are consumed at home. They do not capture containers for beverages that are consumed away from home, which may be littered on beaches, highways and parks or disposed of in waste bins and ultimately landfilled. Container deposits are effective because of the financial incentive for the person that picks up the discarded container and returns it for the refund.
Having a container deposit scheme in place also benefits the kerbside collection scheme. Each year millions of glass bottles are returned to depots for a refund. With less glass bottles in the kerbside collection, contamination of other recyclables from broken glass is greatly reduced so compaction rates on trucks can be increased, allowing for more material to be collected with smaller vehicles making less trips. In South Australia, the compaction rate of 200 kg/m3 can be achieved, whereas in NSW, for example, the compaction rate is set between 120–140 kg/m3.
What happens to beverage containers that I put in my yellow kerbside recycling bin?
Kerbside recyclables are taken to a materials recovery facility (MRF) for sorting.
Beverage containers that have a 10-cent refund are separated from other materials at the MRF so the refund can be collected and then they are recycled.
Is there any proof that container deposit legislation reduces litter?
According to the Keep South Australia Beautiful (KESAB) CDL Containers and Plastic Shopping Bags in the Litter Stream Report 2018, beverage container litter currently represents only 2.8% of litter items in South Australia. This result is the same as the NT which recorded 2.8%. About 6.2% of Queensland's litter was beverage containers with 6.5% in Victoria, 8.2% in NSW and 14.7% in Western Australia.
Clearly, container deposit legislation is highly successful in reducing beverage container litter.
What benefits can be attributed to container deposit?
Key benefits of container deposit scheme in Australia include:
- Low litter rates – South Australia and Northern Territory have the lowest rate of beverage containers found in litter in Australia.
- High recycling rates – In 2018–19, South Australia had a return rate of 76.9%, with over 612 million beverage containers returned to collection depots for refund and recycling. In other jurisdictions which rely solely on recycling bins and kerbside collection, the actual recycling rate is much lower as many beverage containers become contaminated with other waste and cannot be recovered or recycled.
- High recyclate value – the beverage containers recovered in South Australia for recycling are of a much higher recycling grade than interstate containers. The sorting of containers into material types and glass into its 3 colours means less contamination and a higher value for the product.
- High resource recovery – rather than rely on new resources for production of beverage containers, the recovery and recycling of containers conserves resources and reduces pollution and energy consumption
- Reduced waste to landfill – the recovery of beverage containers through the container deposit scheme (in 2018–19 over 612 million bottles and cans) means that there is much less waste sent to landfill.
How many beverage containers are returned and recycled in South Australia?
South Australia has the highest recovery and recycling of beverage containers of any Australian jurisdiction. The return rate for 2018–19 was 76.4%. Over 612 million containers (41,372 tonnes) were recovered by collection depots for recycling, resulting in beverage containers making up only 2.8% of litter in SA.
Do South Australians like the container deposit scheme?
We love it! The scheme was awarded Heritage Icon status in 2006 recognising it as something that contributes to the quality of life in South Australia.
Community groups, charity organisations and sporting clubs collect refundable bottles and cans to raise funds and help clean up the environment. You won’t find empty cans and bottles on South Australian beaches, parks or streets!
In September 2012 a survey was undertaken to determine the level of community support, awareness of and participation and to compare, where appropriate, the current project against the survey in 2004. The research was jointly funded between EPA and the former Zero Waste SA (now known as Green Industries SA)
The survey found:
- The awareness and support of the scheme in SA remains extremely high, both at 98%.
- The scheme is perceived by the overwhelming majority to have been effective in reducing recyclable containers going to landfill (92%), reducing litter in South Australia (97%) and encouraging recycling/reuse of drink containers (98%), all showing increases since the previous study.
- 83% of respondents return at least some of their refundable drink containers to the recycling depot (with 69% of those respondents disposing of most or all), reflecting a significant improvement compared with 2004 when 60% said they returned all of their containers to the recycling depot.
- 98% of South Australians support a national container deposit scheme, with reduction of litter generally across national highways, parks and streets and beaches being the primary benefit thought to accrue from a national CDL scheme.
Is there going to be a national container deposit scheme?
A national scheme is strongly supported by South Australia, the Northern Territory and several other jurisdictions as well as environmental groups such as Greenpeace, Clean Up Australia, Boomerang Alliance and the general community. In fact a poll conducted by Clean Up Australia showed 80% of the Australian public would welcome the introduction of a 10c cash for containers scheme.
An Australia-wide scheme was proposed at national level some years ago but by 2011–12 it had been rejected due to heavy lobbying by the beverage and packaging industry who have, up to now, opposed container deposit schemes.
If a decision is made to implement a national scheme, it would take time for it to be implemented and properly operational.
Do any other Australian jurisdictions have container deposit schemes?
For 35 years, South Australia remained the only jurisdiction in Australia with a container deposit scheme (CDS), until January 2012, when the Northern Territory Government introduced its Cash for Containers scheme.
Other states and territories have also followed South Australia's lead:
- New South Wales introduced its Return and Earn scheme on 1 December 2017
- ACT introduced its Container Deposit Scheme on 30 June 2018
- Queensland introduced Containers for Change on 1 November 2018
- WA will also introduce Containers for Change on 1 June 2020
- Tasmania announced its own Container Refund Scheme in June 2019, to be operational by 2020.
Why was there a challenge to the Northern Territory container deposit scheme?
The beverage industry’s opposition to container deposit schemes became more widely known in March 2013 as the result of a legal challenge to the newly introduced Northern Territory container deposit scheme by Coca-Cola Amatil (Aust), Schweppes Australia and Lion. These companies challenged the validity of the NT scheme against the Commonwealth Mutual Recognition Act. The Federal Court found in favour of Coca-Cola with the result that the NT scheme was deemed invalid.
Briefly, the companies were able to successfully argue that the scheme breached legislation which aimed to ensure consistency of legislation across all Australian jurisdictions.
What is the Mutual Recognition Act?
The Commonwealth Mutual Recognition Act 1992, (MR Act) has the stated purpose of 'promoting the goal of freedom of movement of goods and service providers in a national market in Australia' and exists essentially to enable free trade between the states. In other words, if it is legal for a product to be sold in one state or jurisdiction, then it is legal to sell that same product in another without additional restrictions.
Coca-Cola, Schweppes and Lion challenged the legitimacy of the NT container deposit scheme in the Federal Court because it required that beverage containers to be approved and carry a specific refund marking before being sold in the NT. The Federal Court found in favour of the beverage companies.
With support from all Australian states and jurisdictions, a permanent exemption from the MR Act has now been granted to the Northern Territory’s container deposit scheme.
Note: South Australia has permanent exemption from the MR Act as its container deposit scheme was in place prior to the Act being implemented.