Expanding Container Deposit Schemes

A Boomerang Alliance Backgrounder.

A Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) or refund scheme is in place or planned in all states and territories - except Victoria. Boomerang Alliance continues to campaign for this to change in Victoria.

CDS works. By putting a value on returned beverage containers it significantly increases their return for recycling. Container Deposit Schemes are in place in over 40 countries or states around the world, with the best schemes demonstrating a >95% return rate. Australia's longest running scheme in South Australia, has a return rate of about 80%. This compares with kerbside recycling schemes that have been active for the last 20-30 years that have a container return rate of under 35%.[1] This means that in states without a CDS, the majority of containers end up either in landfill or as litter.

In South Australia, container litter was estimated to be a less than other states by a factor of three.[2] 

The NSW scheme introduced in November 2017 is on track to return over 2 billion containers in 2019. This represents nearly 50% of containers sold in NSW. With collection from kerbside recycling added, NSW is likely to be close to achieving an 80% return rate in just two years under a CDS.

Typical Return and Earn (CDS) in NSW


Figures from both NSW and QLD show that container litter has already reduced by 35% to 57%.[3]

The success of CDS has meant that governments can expand upon the eligible containers. All schemes currently operating have been designed to be almost completely consistent with South Australia. With that state considering expansion, there is an opportunity for all CDS states to expand the scope of CDS.

The key improvements we seek are the inclusion of wine and spirit bottles, increasing the recycled content of collected containers and an increase to the deposit (if targets are not met in 2023). There are also options to adjust the size of containers already collected (fruit juice containers up to 1 litre are collected meaning those at 1 litre don’t get collected). We could also investigate inclusion of a refillable container collection service.

In the longer term the establishment of a collection centre network also means that other non-beverage containers could be collected. This already occurs in South Australian depots where depots also collect household discarded products.

Boomerang Alliance is calling for an expansion to existing container deposit schemes in all States and for Victoria to introduce a scheme by 2022.


Schemes should be expanded to include:

  • Wine and spirits bottles and cans
  • Inclusion of currently excluded containers such as fruit juice above 1 litre
  • Increased recycled content of collected containers (with a requirement for increasing % of recycled content). This supports government targets for recycled content of packaging
  • An increase to the refund amount, if return targets do not meet world’s best practice by 2023
  • Consideration of the collection of refillable glass containers into the schemes.



[1] Previous reported rates have been overestimated. Now that the CDS in NSW reports actual sales, accurate returns can be calculated. In Victoria only 37% of the yellow bin is recycled (Infrastructure Vic 2019).

[2] Marine Debris in Australia report 2015-CSIRO

[3] NSW Return and Earn Report 2019 estimates a 57% reduction in container since November 2017, QLD Ministerial Statement May 2019 outlines a 35% decrease in container litter