The Western Australian container deposit scheme ‘Containers for Change’ was an unexpected victim of the coronavirus when it’s state-wide start date was delayed earlier this year. 

Participants in the scheme were gearing up for lift-off on 2 June but the launch was postponed with the McGowan Government covering the cost of leases, loans, utilities and wages for those start ups expecting an income to begin flowing.

Since the new day one, on 1 October, Western Australia Return Recycle Renew (WARRRL), the not-for-profit organisation created to establish and run the Containers for Change scheme in WA, reports 44,445,892 containers have been returned. 

That sounds like someone has been stockpiling, but with 1,026,000 containers cashed in on 10 October alone it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

Of the $1 million plus paid out to Western Australians in the first fortnight, more than $30,000 was donated to community groups and charities via container donations.

With a focus, not only on reducing container litter and increasing recycling efforts, WARRRL takes us back to the 1960s with plans to build social enterprise by promoting opportunities for community groups and charities to raise funds by cashing in on the container deposit scheme. The son of my next-door neighbour fondly tells a story about his high school rowing team getting themselves to the national championships using the gains from collected beer bottles.

The Australian Capital Territory Container Deposit Scheme (ACT CDS) celebrated its second birthday in August, being declared a success with over 72 million containers returned, generating more than $7.2 million in refunds to individuals and charities since 30 June 2018.

Danielle Smalley, CEO of Exchange for Change – the organisation coordinating the ACT CDS – believes there is no doubt the ACT Container Deposit Scheme is having a positive impact. 

She was pleased to see individuals had used the scheme to save for special goals and to teach positive behaviours and values to their children and grandchildren, while at the same time charities, schools and sporting clubs in the ACT had embraced the scheme to raise much needed funds.

Care Flight, RSPCA, and the National Zoo and Aquarium have all benefitted from the scheme, with the National Zoo raising $17,000 to support wildlife charities by collecting and returning bottles and cans.

Tasmania and Victoria are still in the planning stages, introducing their own schemes in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

Municipal Association of Victoria CEO, Kerry Thompson makes a valid point in the wake of the release of the Andrews Government’s discussion paper on the design of the scheme, saying Victoria [and Tasmania] has a great opportunity to learn from the experience of other states and territories.

“We need a network operator focused on maximising recovery of containers which is why we support the split governance model.

“A scheme that is both coordinated and controlled by the beverage industry would be hopelessly conflicted – the incentive to reduce costs by minimising the number of containers recovered would be too great.”

While container deposit schemes around the world have demonstrated success in increasing recovery of beverage containers and reducing litter, the added social and economic benefits should not be underplayed.