Cash For Containers

Everyone has seen drink containers littered in our street and parks, caught along creek banks and lying on beach sands, floating out to sea. But did you know that every minute 15,000 bottles and cans are littered or landfilled in Australia?

This massive waste is not only damaging our ecosystems; it is squandering finite resources.The problem began in the 1970s when drink companies like Coca Cola introduced the disposable drink container, terminating the returnable bottle system that put a price on each bottle - a Container Deposit System (CDS). As these containers flooded the market, the litter plague quickly overwhelmed parks and public spaces.The community called for the return of the ‘bottle deposit’ but governments and industry effectively blamed the consumer for discarding single use containers, and pursued anti-litter campaigns instead.

What is a Container Deposit Scheme (CDS)?

Container Deposit Schemes (otherwise known as Cash for Containers, Container Deposit Legislation or Container Refund Schemes) involves consumers receiving a refund for the return of their beverage containers for recycling. It aims to reduce the amount of beverage container litter and increase the amount of recycling by using a financial incentive (usually 10c).

This deposit is not a ‘tax’. The government does not get the money and you can refund the entire amount. 

What are the benefits of a Container Deposit Scheme?

Implementing a CDS can have several environmental and social benefits including:

  • Recovering quality input material for recyclers enabling bottle to bottle recycling
  • Saving local authorities money
  • Achieving landfill reduction
  • Creating new green jobs
  • Stoping beverage container littering
  • Achieving high recycling rates
  • Changing behaviour within society
  • Capturing valuable resources
  • Improving environmental standards, and
  • Generating income for charities 

Which states and territories have Container Deposit Schemes? 


While South Australia retained their CDS, local councils and communities across Australia continued to campaign with ‘Bring Back the Deposit’ campaigns.

In 2004, we began another effort working nationally and in each state. There were many twists and turns before we achieved victory in (most) states and territories across Australia. See below to read more about our Cash for Containers Campaign History.

Now we just have to convince the two remaining states – Victoria and Tasmania to commit to implementing a container deposit scheme!

Learn more about our campaigns below:

ACT     NSW     NT     SA     TAS       QLD     VIC      WA 

A brief campaign history:

Over the last 13 years, tens of thousands of people have helped our Cash for Containers campaign with letters to and meetings with MPs, signing petitions, media events and actions, community stalls and clean-ups; and we have lobbied governments; countered industry misinformation; and developed a best practice Container Deposit Scheme. 

2004 – 05: National Packaging Covenant (NPC) is renewed. It was the industry alternative to regulation like a CDS. We fight for targets and succeed – but the NPC was never going to work. Ministers warned a CDS could be around the corner. 

2008: WA election. The then ALP Government promises a CDS after a positive taskforce inquiry. However, they were voted out. The drinks industry runs an effective insiders and public campaign.

Mid-2010: Environment ministers meet in Darwin under federal minister Peter Garrett and announces a national study… the first of three. Initially, it was into beverage containers including a CDS, but then got expanded to all litter – a common tactic to diminish the importance of container deposits.

Feb 2011: After a brave campaign by the local community – and our participation – the NT Parliament unanimously passes its CDS law.

Jan 2012: The NT CDS is implemented.

Dec 2012: Coca Cola, Lion and Schweppes challenges the law in the Federal Court against the NT CDS (surely one of the most unpopular corporate actions in recent years).

Feb 2013: QLD signs up to the National Bin Network – the industry’s latest alternative to a CDS – the day before environment ministers meet to discuss a national regulatory impact statement into options to deal with beverage and other litter. Despite this potentially fatal move by QLD and the industry, the ministers still proceed to the formal review process of a broad range of options including a CDS.

Mar 2013: Coca Cola win in the Federal Court and cancel their participation in the scheme, hoping it will collapse. However, the NT Government financially backs the CDS by supplying redeemed deposits/handling fees as they seek to remedy the process flaw in the law and obtain mutual recognition from all the other states. Once achieved, there is a full restart in August 2013.

Mid-2013: Vic Premier Napthine endorses a national CDS and keeps pushing over the year – the possibility of joint NSW/Vic action emerges.

Nov 2014: By the Vic election, Napthine loses courage, no doubt in face of bad polls and industry threats to campaign on the consumer cost impacts of a CDS.

However, we don’t give up! We push on – now fully focussed on getting a state-by-state approach to CDS with the Commonwealth path now deemed fruitless.

Jan 2015: QLD election, an ALP minority government is elected and implements its policy to investigate a CDS. LNP Opposition gives bipartisan support in 2016. 

Feb 2015: Premier Baird announces his election policy to implement a container deposit system by 1 July 2017. ALP Opposition give bipartisan support.

Feb 2016: NSW delays the start date of the CDS from June 2017 to December 2017.

April 2016: The Senate Inquiry into Marine Plastic reports endorses our solutions including demanding all states have a CDS by 2020 – otherwise the federal government should do it for them.

May 2016: We win in NSW with the NSW Government announcing a full scale CDS.

June 2016: The QLD Government announces it will start a CDS in 2018, harmonising with NSW.

Aug 2016: WA Government announced it will implement a CDS.

Sept 2016: The ACT Government announces that the ACT CDS will commence early 2018.

Feb 2017: The NSW Government delays the NSW CDS from June 2017 to December 2017.

Sept 2017: QLD Parliament unanimously passes the Waste Reduction and Recycling Amendment Bill, legislating a Container Refund Scheme (CRS) to be introduced into QLD in July 2018. The bill also contained the plastic bag ban, to be introduced simultaneously.

Sept 2017: The WA Government confirms the CDS will commence Jan 2019.

Dec 2017: The NSW CDS, ‘Return and Earn’, is introduced. 

Nov 2018: The QLD CRS, ‘Containers for Change, is introduced. 




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