Your guide to container deposit schemes in Australia

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Action on Packaging, Sustainability , Better Environment | Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Australia

CCEP is determined to be a catalyst in Australia’s circular economy by acting as a scheme operator and / or co-ordinator in every state and territory where a Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) is operational. Recently, Victoria introduced a new container deposit scheme – the last piece in the mainland Australian CDS puzzle and a huge milestone in driving a circular economy for beverage packaging in Australia.

We spoke with our Head of Packaging, Recycling and Collection Jeff Maguire to provide a 101 on all things container deposit schemes (CDS).


What value lies in container deposit schemes and why are they so important? 

As more and more packaged goods companies switch to recycled plastic packaging, used plastic bottles have become a valuable resource.  They can be recycled and made into new plastic bottles again.  And the more we recycle used plastic, the less we need to introduce what’s called ‘virgin’ plastic into the bottle-making process, and therefore the environment. 

Recycled plastic bottles are better for the environment.  100% recycled bottles have a lower carbon footprint than the same bottles made from all-new plastic.  They also have a much lower carbon footprint than glass bottles, aluminium cans and Tetra Pak.

Container deposit schemes (CDS) are a bottle and can return scheme that lets consumers claim back 10 cents for every eligible container they take to a collection point.   Aside from being the only means for claiming back the 10c deposit, CDS’ importance is that they generate a ‘clean’ stream of used container materials like plastic, that can be sent directly to plastic recycling factories to be remade into food grade plastic resin and ultimately new plastic bottles again.

This ‘purity’ guarantees your containers aren’t going to end up in landfill.  Recycling rates through CDS collection networks are upwards of 50%, compared to less than 15% through kerbside bins. The overall combined collection rate nationally sits at abut 65% with South Australia being the leading state for collection. While the rates are comparably low the schemes are still quite young and volumes will increase over time.  

Plastic put in kerbside recycling bins is harder to sort and becomes contaminated, meaning that four in five are likely to end up in landfill - which is a lost resource that could otherwise be contributing to the circular economy and the reduction of the need for virgin resin.


What would you recommend to Australians who are keen to get more involved with recycling? 

Australians have been returning their empty containers through CDS over the years, starting with South Australia, which has been operating one for 45 years.  With Victoria starting from November 2023, all States across mainland Australia will now offer a CDS, which gives everyone the chance to redeem the 10c deposit value and ensure their used plastic bottles can become bottles again. 

The best way to get involved is when you’re at home, separate your empty bottles and cans from your general recycling and take them to a CDS collection point to claim back the deposit value. 

And if you’re out and about, consuming drinks on the go, take your empties home to add to your growing collection or leave them in your car and drop into a nearby CDS the next time you’re passing. 

Participating in the CDS means you’re disposing of your containers in a way that gives them the best chance of a new life again, and you’re doing the right thing by the environment. You’re also claiming back the 10c deposit value which you can choose to keep or donate directly to charity through the collection machines or via the scheme accounts that have been registered and established for a multitude of charities and community organisations around Australia.


What do you wish Australians knew more about when recycling is concerned? 

The optimum form of recycling is circular – where what you’re recycling can become the same thing it was before.  CDS are an important component of circular recycling for beverage containers, in the way they provide a clean stream of used containers that can become new containers again. 

Down-cycling recycles something into something else – for example, plastic bottles being recycled to make sunglasses, T-shirts, tyres.  That’s better than the bottle ending up in landfill, but the holy grail of recycling is a circular outcome, where every product is designed and produced to be 100% recyclable and 100% recycled, and reborn, again and again.


What else to watch out for:

  • Properly sort your waste at home to minimise contamination. Use the correct dedicated kerbside bins to give your beverage containers the best chance of being recycled.
  • Be aware of what can and can’t be recycled. Disposable coffee cups, for example, are plastic lined, their lids are PVC. Neither are recyclable; putting them in the recycled bin contaminates and condemns everything in that bin to landfill. A great example is when you are at a sporting event or a concert. If there are beverage recycling bins there don’t put left over food or other waste in the recycling bins.
  • Avoid placing recyclables in regular trash bins, and regular rubbish in recycling bins. It’s condemning both bins to landfill.
  • Where you can, collect your beverage containers and bring them to your local CDS. It pays and helps the environment!