Sunday, October 2, 2022

Tasmania is getting a container refund scheme. Here’s how it will work

Nearly 50 years after South Australians were able to receive a partial refund for recycling bottles and cans, Tasmania is finally catching up.

Previously promised to be introduced in 2022, Tasmania’s container refund scheme is now set to come in during the first half of 2023.

Drink containers are one of the most commonly littered items in Tasmania, with a survey conducted in 2018 finding they made up about 45 per cent of litter in the state, by volume.

The state government hopes the incoming container refund scheme will reduce that.

Tasmania’s scheme will look very similar to other states’ schemes, as the aim is for a nationally consistent approach.

How it will work

Consumers will receive a 10-cent refund for every eligible container they recycle through a refund point.

The most-commonly literate beverage containers will be accepted, including cans, glass and PET bottles, cartons, juice boxes and poppers, typically between 150 ml and 3 litres.

Wine and spirit bottles will not be eligible, but Tasmania is involved in national talks about possibly changing that.

Circular economy consultant Helen Millicer said container refund schemes reduced emissions and landfill.

“There are other benefits as well, in the increased number of jobs in the local economy, as well as significant environmental benefits.”

Ms Millicer said container refund schemes created a circular system.

“We are truly reducing our emissions, reducing our waste that ends up in landfill, and we are really improving the way we live on this planet.”

Circular economy consultant Helen Millicer says container refund schemes create streams of clean, high-quality material. (ABC News: Matthew Holmes)

Where will you be able to get a refund?

It has not yet been decided where the refund points will be set up. The state government says there would be more than 40 around the state, including on King and Flinders Islands.

Environment Minister Roger Jaensch said the exact makeup of the refund point network would become clear through a tender process.

“We are likely to see a range of different refund item types,” he said.

“This may include reverse-vending machines, large depots and over-the-counter services in existing shops.

“We are likely to see refund points around supermarkets and shopping centres, and at local retail shops. These will have minimum opening hours to ensure convenience for Tasmanians.”

Containers will go from those points to an approved recycler.

The beverage industry will fund the Tasmanian Container Refund Scheme through a fee system and the cost per beverage container for customers will likely increase slightly.

Potential money maker

While consumers can pocket the 10-cent refund, they can opt to directly donate it, instead, to a charity, sport club or community group.

A woman stands in a park smiling at the camera.
Adrienne Picone from TasCOSS says its members are looking forward to participating in the container refund scheme. (ABC News: Selina Ross)

Those organizations can also raise money by collecting containers or operating a refund point.

Adrienne Picone from the Tasmanian Council of Social Service said its members felt there would be real opportunities and benefits from being involved in the scheme.

“We work with a number of members across the community services industry and they work with individuals [who] are experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage, and they’re very much looking forward to participating in the container refund scheme,” she said.

Steve Hastwell from SA Scouts smiles at the camera.
Steve Hastwell from SA Scouts says it makes sense.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

In South Australia — where a similar scheme began 45 years ago — container recycling is providing the bulk of scouts’ funding.

SA Scouts runs 10 depots across the state, with 160 employees.

The organization’s head of development, Steve Hastwell, said families brought cans and bottles, along with scrap metal and other recyclables to the depots to receive their refunds.

“We pay them 10 cents, then we receive a handling fee from the super collectors, the beverage companies, that gives us income,” he said.

“The income through our businesses — and not just the deposits, but also collecting from hotels, clubs, community groups and events — the revenue’s about $2 million. That goes back into scouting each year.”

Mr Hastwell said the funds raised were spent on local programs.

“We can buy great adventure equipment — [such as] airplanes, climbing walls, dive boats — to really enhance our programs.”

A man empties a bag of recyclable containers into a large skip.
SA Scouts runs 10 depots across the state, with 160 employees. (ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)
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