Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Waste and recycling

Container deposit scheme

To help meet the Premier's goal of reducing the volume of litter in NSW by 40% by 2020 the NSW Government is introducing a refund container deposit scheme (CDS).

Under the scheme, anyone who returns an empty eligible beverage container to an approved NSW collection depot or reverse vending machine will be eligible for a 10-cent refund. A network of depots and reverse vending machines will open across NSW to receive the empty containers.

The CDS will commence from 1 December 2017.

Features of the scheme

  • All NSW beverage containers between 150ml and 3 litres in volume will be eligible for a refund with some exceptions (see Scheme exceptions). These exceptions are similar to the exceptions in the South Australian and Northern Territory container deposit schemes, to aid consistency.
  • Beverage suppliers (manufacturer, importer, wholesaler or retailer) that bring eligible containers into NSW will be responsible for funding the refund as well as associated costs.
  • It is proposed that the Scheme will be delivered through a two-part structure.
    • A single Scheme Coordinator will be responsible for the financial management of the scheme, and for ensuring that the scheme meets its state-wide access and recovery targets.
    • Network Operators will set up and run a state-wide network of collection points. They can build and operate these collection points themselves, or they contract for other organisations to do this.
  • The Minister for the Environment will appoint the Scheme Coordinator and Network Operators through a competitive selection process.
  • Eligible containers in kerbside recycling will be able to be redeemed. The proposed scheme will allow material recovery facilities (MRFs) to use an EPA approved method for accurately estimating the number of containers recovered in the facility and to claim the refund from the Scheme Coordinator. Under this proposed approach, the MRF would only receive the refund amount. They would not be able to claim a handling fee, but they would also not need to separate out containers or substantially change their existing recovery processes. The proposed scheme would also provide a regulatory incentive for MRFs and local governments to share any benefits that may result from these arrangements.

Scheme exceptions

Containers that are not included in the scheme and, therefore, do not qualify for a refund include:

  • plain milk (or milk substitute) containers
  • flavoured milk containers 1 litre or more
  • pure fruit or vegetable juice containers 1 litre or more
  • glass containers for wine and spirits
  • casks (plastic bladders in boxes) for wine and casks for water – 1 litre or more
  • sachets for wine 250ml or more
  • containers for cordials, concentrated fruit/vegetable juices
  • registered health tonics.

Why is a CDS proposed for NSW?

About 160 million drink containers were littered in NSW in 2014–15. This represents about 44% of the volume of all litter in NSW. Drink containers make up the largest proportion of litter volume in NSW, twice as much as the next largest proportion, which is take-away cups and food containers.

Litter can have serious impacts, including:

  • Environmental – litter damages natural environments and harms terrestrial and marine wildlife.
  • Visual – litter makes places look unsightly and uncared for, and attracts more litter.
  • Human – litter like broken glass and syringes can injure people. The presence of litter makes it more likely that other antisocial behaviours will occur, like graffiti and property damage
  • Resource – easily recyclable and valuable resources, like drink containers, are lost when people litter. Even if littered items are subsequently collected, they are often too contaminated to be recycled.
  • Economic – a 2015 survey of local government, state agencies, private land managers and community groups found that more than $162 million a year is currently being spent on managing litter in NSW. That is money that could be spent on other things.

What is the NSW Government doing about litter?

The NSW Government is serious about reducing litter. In September 2015, the Premier committed to reducing the volume of litter in NSW by 40% by 2020. The CDS will complement the broad suite of litter reduction initiatives that are already under way as part of the $465.7 million Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, in which the Government has dedicated $20 million over five years to tackle litter.

Visit the pages below for more information about these initiatives.

Earlier NSW container deposit scheme discussion paper

The NSW Government released an earlier container deposit scheme discussion paper on 19 December 2015 and sought comments by 26 February 2016. The consultation period for that paper is now closed.

The discussion paper detailed the key design elements of a container deposit scheme, and put forward two possible models for consideration.

The NSW Government would like to thank all the members of the community who submitted responses to this discussion paper.

Page last updated: 16 February 2017