What is a Container Refund Scheme?

Drink containers are the second most littered item in Australia.  Since single use drink containers were introduced in the 1970s, they now litter our streets, parks, creeks and beaches.  Queensland alone produces 2.4 billion drink containers each year!

Container Refund Scheme (CRS) is one of the first pieces of environmental legislation to focus on the polluter pays principal, where the beverage manufactures are responsible for funding a refund for returned drink containers.

It is also an example of produce stewardship legislation in which the beverage industry is obliged to take greater responsibility for its packaging after it has been sold.

Eligible drink containers are taken to a collection point, depot or reverse vending machine to claim their refund for their drink container.  This 10c refund aims to reduce the amount of drink container litter and increase the recycling rate for the state.

In Queensland members of the public will have the option to donate their 10c refund community groups or charities which would then be entitled to receive the 10 cent refund.  This is where our P&Cs are able to benefit from this environmental legislation.


Benefits of the Container Refund Scheme

The benefits of the Queensland Container Refund Scheme include:

  • reduce drink container litter by providing an incentive for people to keep, collect and return the containers for a refund
  • reduce the environmental impact of litter on the natural environment and on wildlife
  • reduce the costs associated with litter removal for local governments, land managers and communities
  • increase recycling and recovery rates
  • provide an opportunity for communities without kerbside recycling services to participate in recycling activities
  • increase business and employment opportunities
  • provide a fundraising opportunity for community and charity groups
  • nominal costs to consumers.


So how does it work?

From 1 November 2018 Queenslanders will pay a 10c deposit on soft drinks, bottled water, flavoured milk, mixed drinks and beers which come in containers sized 150ml to 3L.  In Queensland the Container Refund Scheme is known as Containers for Change.

The choice is then to simply recycle the container when empty, in your kerbside wheelie bin, or the container can be cashed in.

Details of the eligible drink containers can be found on the Department of Environment and Science website here.


Myths and Facts

A common list of arguments made by Container Refund Scheme opponents:

Myth: Container Refund Schemes target only a small part of the waste stream.
Fact:  Drink containers are the second most littered item in Australia.

Myth: Container Refund Schemes are not needed where there is kerbside recycling.
Fact: Kerbside recycling and Container Refund Schemes are not mutually exclusive.  Together they can be part of a comprehensive approach to recycling.  Not only combined kerbside and Container Refund Schemes more effective than kerbside recycling programs alone, the materials collected through Container Refund Schemes are of a much higher quality than materials collected through kerbside recycling programs.

Myth: Container Refund Schemes are inconvenient (consumers prefer using kerbside recycling bins)
Fact: 43 of our 77 councils in Queensland don’t have kerbside recycling services
Kerbsides don’t address away-from-home consumption
Increase in kerbside access does not stem the tide of waste.

Myth: Container Refund Scheme robs local councils of valuable revenue from aluminium cans.
Fact: Kerbside recycling does not target drink containers consumed away from home
Aluminium cans are gradually being supplanted by plastic bottles
Container Refund Schemes reduce collection costs by removing cumbersome, low value glass and plastic
bottles from the waste stream.  Plastic bottles are cumbersome to collect at kerbside (low weight-to-
volume ratio); mixed colour glass is heavy and has a low scrap value, and is often impossible to market.
It is illogical to expect kerbside recycling to generate revenue when this expectation has never been made
of landfill or incineration.

Myth: Container Refund Schemes are more expensive than other recycling programs.
Fact: While the initial costs of Container Refund Schemes may be more, refund schemes are more effective than
other recycling and waste reduction programs, resulting in more bang for the buck.
Under Container Refund Schemes, the cost of recycling is borne by the producers and consumers, not by
government or taxpayers.



Boomerang Alliance, Cash for Containers, https://www.boomerangalliance.org.au/cash_for_containers

Bottle Bill Resource Guide, www.bottlebill.org/

Clean Up Australia, https://www.cleanup.org.au/cash-for-containers

Planet Ark, Container Deposit Schemes, https://recyclingnearyou.com.au/containerdeposit/

Queensland Government (2016) Implementing Queensland’s Container Refund Scheme – Discussion Paper https://ehp.qld.gov.au/waste/pdf/qld-container-refund-scheme-discussion-paper.pdf