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Container Refund Scheme

Following a 12-month feasibility investigation, the Queensland Government has announced a Container Refund Scheme for Queensland will start 1 July 2018, to tackle litter and plastic pollution and improve recycling.

Under the scheme, anyone who returns an empty eligible drink container to an approved container refund point, will receive a 10-cent refund. A network of container collection points, including permanent depots and reverse vending machines, will be set up across the state to receive the empty containers. (For more information about the scheme itself, see Scheme features.)

An Implementation Advisory Group is advising the Queensland Government on how the scheme will be implemented. To be consistent with other states’ schemes, various features of the Queensland scheme have been decided, while other features will continue to be explored through targeted consultation. A discussion paper has been released to allow for public consultation on the scheme. Feedback is encouraged and information about making submissions is detailed below.

Discussion paper

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) has developed a discussion paper in consultation with the Implementation Advisory Group (see Implementation Advisory Group).

The Implementing Queensland's Container Refund Scheme discussion paper (PDF, 3.0M) outlines implementation issues and approaches for Queensland.

Provide feedback and ideas on the questions raised in the discussion paper by completing an online survey, or by emailing or posting your responses to the questions. For details on how to make a submission, please see the Get Involved website.

Submissions close on Monday 20 March 2017.

Scheme features

National Litter Index figures show Queensland continues to be the most littered mainland state in Australia, with drink containers the most common item found in the litter stream after cigarette butts. Drink containers are made from readily recyclable materials - such as plastic, glass and aluminium.

By focusing on drink containers the scheme aims to:

  • significantly reduce litter and
  • improve resource recovery, especially in regional areas, with benefits for jobs and the economy.

Some important co-benefits include:

  • giving communities without kerbside recycling, the chance to participate in recycling activities
  • reducing litter clean-up costs for local councils, private land managers and community groups
  • reducing the threat posed by plastic litter to our waterways and coastal marine environments
  • boosting funds for community organisations and individuals collecting eligible containers
  • improving the look of shared places and
  • encouraging and normalising environmentally responsible behaviour.

By reducing plastic drink container litter, the scheme is part of the Queensland Government’s broader plastic pollution reduction agenda which also includes banning single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags (see Reducing plastic pollution and Plastic bags). Limiting the volume of plastic items that end up in the environment prevents multiple negative impacts including injuries and deaths of wildlife such as turtles, dugongs, seabirds, dolphins and fish, caused by their ingestion of plastic.

The scheme aims to avoid negatively impacting on existing kerbside recycling, a successful service currently provided by 33 of Queensland’s 77 local councils. The scheme will complement not replace kerbside recycling. It is expected that the biggest gains in reducing litter and improving recycling will come from a focus on the away-from-home consumption of beverages, and the scheme aims to encourage the recovery and recycling of these containers.

In Australia container deposit schemes currently operate in South Australia (SA) and the Northern Territory (NT), with schemes for New South Wales (NSW) and Western Australia (WA) due to start mid-2017 and mid-2018, respectively. Similar schemes have also successfully operated in over 40 jurisdictions around the world.

The Queensland scheme will be designed to operate as harmoniously as possible with the NSW scheme, to maximise the overall efficiency and effectiveness of both schemes.

Key features of the scheme include:

  • A 10-cent refund on eligible drink containers.
  • Most drink containers between 150ml and 3 litres will be eligible for a refund under the scheme.
  • Some drink containers will be exempt, such as containers for plain milk, wine and pure juice, and are listed further below.
  • Containers will need to be approved by the Queensland Government and a register of approved containers will be maintained.
  • The scheme will include auditing, reporting and accountability to prevent fraud and provide transparency across the container supply chain.
  • The operating structure will comprise arrangements for scheme coordination; network operation; and container collection points.
  • Container collection points will include refund points, where containers can be returned for a direct refund; and return points, where containers can be returned but the refund is collected by the entity running the return point (e.g. school or community organisation such as Scouts, Lions or a surf lifesaving club).
  • The supplier of beverages into Queensland will be responsible for covering scheme costs, including providing the refund; payment of certain fees; and transport costs.
  • Beverages sold in eligible containers into Queensland will need to carry an identifying refund mark.
  • Beverage suppliers will need to enter into arrangements with the scheme coordinator to ensure the recovery and recycling of containers placed on the market.
  • Eligible containers that are transported to a materials recovery facility (MRF) through kerbside recycling will be able to be redeemed by the MRF.

Containers that are not included in the scheme and therefore do not qualify for a refund include:

  • plain milk (or milk substitute) containers
  • glass containers that have contained wine or pure spirits
  • containers of 1 litre or above that have contained flavoured milk, pure juice, cask wine or cask water
  • cordial and vegetable juice containers
  • sachets above 250ml that have contained wine
  • registered health tonics.

The focus of the scheme is on away-from-home drink containers – those that end up as litter or that are consumed at venues such as pubs, clubs and event venues. Evidence shows the exempt containers listed above appear less often in the litter stream, as they are more likely to be consumed at home. These containers can be recycled through kerbside recycling services where available, and are excluded under the scheme. These exemptions align with those in NSW and are similar to those in the SA and NT schemes.

Implementation Advisory Group

In August 2016, EHP established an Implementation Advisory Group to provide input to the development and implementation of a container refund scheme for Queensland. The group includes representatives from the beverage and retail industries, local government, waste and recycling industries (including relevant technology providers), and environment and community groups. Current members are as follows:

  1. Mr Jeff Angel, Boomerang Alliance
  2. Ms Sarah Buckler, Local Government Association of Queensland
  3. Mr John Hillier, National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations
  4. Mr Toby Hutcheon, Boomerang Alliance (Queensland)
  5. Mr Rob Kelman, Association of Container Deposit System Operators
  6. Mr Jeff Maguire, Australian Food and Grocery Council
  7. Mr Grant Musgrove, Australian Council of Recycling
  8. Mr Geoff Parker, Australian Beverages Council
  9. Mr Rick Ralph, Waste Recycling Industry Queensland
  10. Mr Trevor Ruthenberg, Scouts Association of Australia Queensland Branch
  11. Ms Gayle Sloan, Waste Management Association of Australia
  12. Mr David Stout, National Retail Association.

To complement the continued advice of the Implementation Advisory Group, EHP is establishing a number of smaller technical working groups which will offer more focused advice regarding existing and emerging design and implementation issues. These two targeted consultation processes will occur alongside the broader public consultation that is taking place through the discussion paper, on which feedback is encouraged (see discussion paper.) 

Further information

Acting on priority wastes—Reducing plastic pollution

Last updated
17 February 2017