NSW Government lies about Container Deposit Scheme benefits and the costs

The Return and Earn Scheme

The NSW Government told the suckers people of NSW that cans and bottles make up 43% of all litter and their new Container Deposit Scheme will reduce this by 25%. Impressive numbers as this would be a nearly 11% reduction in litter. They would call this scheme “Return and Earn” when it’s really “Return and get your deposit back”, clearly they don’t understand the definition of the word earn and as will be seen below words like integrity.

The NSW Government is serious about reducing litter.
The Premier has committed to reduce the volume of litter in New
South Wales by 40% by 2020.

The Premier of NSW | September 2015

But of course the NSW Government misled the people of NSW and the only way to find out is if you read the Litter prevention strategy for NSW 2017-2020. The only report you will find is a draft report, the final report was due in the first half of 2018 but we’re almost into the second half of 2019 and it still hasn’t been released. Make of that what you will.

Looking at the volume estimate Container Deposit Scheme beverage containers make up 43% of litter.

If we view this as the number of items and Container Deposit Scheme beverage containers make up 9% of litter.

The earlier estimate from the NSW Government was that a drop of 25% would be achieved which would reduce the 9% by volume to 6.75% which is a drop of 2.25% in the total number of items littered.

Looking at the comparison figures for the period 2005 to 2016 there have already been drops each year so why the rush to implement what became a flawed and expensive Container Deposit Scheme.


The document proceeds to talk about South Australia but only mentions the reduction in containers, it does not talk about a substantial increase in bottle lids.

Checking the statistics on containers does show a decrease in South Australia on the number of beverage containers in the CSIRO Marine Debris Project Final Report Aug 2014.

It’s not all roses in South Australia however because Australian container recyclers refuse to take bottle lids and you have to remove them before you return them. The rest of the world that have container refund schemes take the lids including the machines that crush them in the store so they don’t need to be removed. The flaw in Australia’s recycling is that in South Australia a substantial number of the lids are thrown away and end up on the beaches, in the water, parks and everywhere litter is found. The logical solution to this would be to require the recycling facilities to take the full complete bottle with lid and recycle or dispose of the plastic lid.

In Queensland this is also a safety issue because apparently when being crushed the pressure created can cause the lid to fly off and injure or kill.

The Strategy document claims that the cost of collecting litter in 2016 for councils, public and private land managers and community groups is $180 million per year with claimed savings from a Container Refund Scheme of $45 million a year.

The Real Figures

The NSW Government figures which will frankly be no doubt over-inflated show a reduction in litter of 2.25% however this comes at a cost, a huge cost that all beverage consumers are paying.

In the first three months of the scheme from December 2017 to February 2018 the scheme took in $110 million in deposits and paid out $8.3 million leaving the bottlers with a profit of $101.7 million or $406.8 million for the year.

As is usual in Australia the NSW Government did not want any responsibility for managing the scheme so allowed the five largest beverage companies to set up the Exchange for Change which is used to run and manage the NSW Container Deposit Scheme. This didn’t stop them for hiring over 18 staff to “oversee” the scheme.

Asahi, Carlton United Breweries, Coca-Cola Amatil, Coopers and Lion eagerly setup this new scheme as the NSW Government made no allowances for deposits that are not claimed so these are returned as profit from the scheme to the beverage companies. When does the idiocracy stop? Are the village idiots given priority in government positions?

December 2017 to March 2018 saw 1.556 billion eligible containers were sold in NSW but only 204 million were returned which is 13.1%. Assuming this rate remains the same this is an additional cost to consumers of $406.8 million per year. One of the benefits of this Container Refund Scheme was to reduce the cost for councils in collecting litter but with such a low rate of returns this is unlikely to occur in any meaningful way and the beverage manufacturers are profiting in an obscene manner when these funds would cover the councils costs of litter collection nearly three times.

According to the Return and Earn Media Release each container has between 11.13c and 14.07c added to it but this is based on a much higher recovery percentage so not only is their profit in making it hard for consumers to claim but also in the overstated costs per container. This is a win-win for the companies who setup the scheme and who keep all the excess funds.

Updated figures for December 2017 to January 2019 (14 months but the ABC call it 15 months!?!?!?).

5.446 billion eligible containers sold in this period and 1.3 billion returned has increased the rate of the return to 23% which is lower then it was when they were collected in the roadside recycling bins. However Government figures have it at 54%, are we being lied to again?

Lies, Lies and more Lies

The NSW Environmental Protection Agency’s business case for the setup of a Container Deposit Scheme stated that eligible containers were recycled at a rate of 53%. Other government documents put it at 50% and the following document from the NSW Government puts it at up to 60% and note that they mention that hoarding may occur in the leadup to the Container Deposit Scheme.

We have assumed that the Return and Earn scheme must be prepared to fund a potentially high total recovery rate in the initial months, with NSW kerbside recycling already recovering
as much as 60% of all supplied containers based on available statistics, and the potential for container hoarding prior to December 2017.

NSW Government Return and Earn Scheme Costs | August 2017

The NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton claimed that container recycling had jumped 69% in the twelve months since the scheme began from 32% to 54%.

Which is true?

Looking at key points in the Ministers media release and it looks like the Container Deposit Scheme has been an outstanding success despite the massive cost but has it?

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said Return and Earn has been an outstanding success and changed the way people dispose of empty drink containers.

Eligible drink containers collected and recycled: up by 69 per cent
Eligible drink container litter volume: down 44 per cent
NSW total litter volume: down 48 per cent since 2013

“More than half the drink containers in the marketplace (54 per cent) are now being recovered, compared with the 32 per cent that was being collected in yellow bins before Return and Earn kicked in.

“While litter volume has pleasingly dropped across all litter categories, the largest reduction is from eligible drink containers which now represent an all-time low of 37 per cent of the NSW litter volume stream,” Ms Upton said.

“This means the Premier’s target of a reducing litter in NSW by 40 per cent cut by 2020 is going to be well and truly met – and then some.

“This shows the impact and undeniable success of Return and Earn on reducing litter across the state.

Return and Earn: A billion reasons to celebrate | 2nd of December 2018

Where does the 32% figure come from when NSW Environmental Protection Agency’s figure was 53% and the schemes own figures are up to 60%?

The figure was based on the EPA looking at a cross selection of recycling bins in 29 council areas across the state with 100 households from each council area selected for examination. Households were notified beforehand and were able to opt out. So not only is this not a proper audit of the bins as you have notified residents and given them an opt out right but this audit was performed TWO months AFTER the scheme started so people were stockpiling them to return them so the results are worthless..

So the NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton is using a figure that was collected in a manner that is stupid beyond all comprehension and ignoring all the previous figures because they show that this scheme has achieved nothing! When are politicians going to be held accountable for lying to and misleading citizens to cover up the fact that they have wasted BILLIONS of taxpayer money on a scheme that does nothing!

Ms Upton said that, as a result of Return and Earn, eligible drink container litter volume has dropped by 44 per cent and now represents an all-time low of 37 per cent of the NSW litter volume stream.

Return and Earn breaks records | 18th of January 2018

This is outright deception by the Minister Gabrielle Upton. The recycling rate has increased from 53% to 54% so how it is possible for the litter volume to drop by 7%?

At best the NSW Container Deposit Scheme has increased recycling by 1% and at worst they have decreased by 6%. The true figure is probably somewhere in between so the billions of dollars in setting up the scheme and lost productivity have all be for nothing.

Minister Gabrielle Upton unable to do the maths!

Is it asking too much for a minister earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, a generous pension and a large team of staff to actually know their portfolio?

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton has dodged questions from Ben Fordham over a crucial Return and Earn detail.

Ms Upton insists the container deposit scheme is now “steady” and going “real places” but can’t give a figure on how many containers are going through the vending machines as a percentage of how many containers are sold.

“There are almost 640 million drink containers through the system since it began,” the Minister says.

Ben, “Does that work out to be 10 per cent of the total number of containers that are sold? Or 25 per cent or 50 per cent?”

Minister Upton, “Look, it is a percentage of the drink containers that are sold. Not every drink container, Ben, is going to be put through the system. People are making a choice.”

Ben, “But what is it? 50 per cent? Do you know what it is?”

Despite not being able to answer the question, Ms Upton says the figure wouldn’t determine “whether this scheme is a success”.

“There are many millions of drinks that are eligible to be returned, sold every day,” she says.

“People make choices about whether they will claim back a deposit.

“The strong numbers, just under 640 million drink containers, indicates that lots and lots of people every day are returning it and participating in the scheme.”

Ben has since crunched the numbers, and has the figures.

“The return rate is 27 per cent,” he says. “So out of 100 containers sold, 27 are handed in on average.

“So if 640 million have been handed in in total, the total number of containers sold since December 1, would be approximately 2.3 billion.”

‘Do you know what it is?’ | 30th of August 2018

What other costs are there for the NSW Container Deposit Scheme?

The NEW environmental protection agency requires 18.5 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) staff to oversee the Container Deposit Scheme. The cost of these staff? $2.8 million per year.

NSW Container Deposit Scheme
EPA’s fees for monitoring, compliance and approving containers
24 September 2018

Return and Earn Depots

I’m not going to go into these for NSW, the fact is that there are too few places to return and they don’t have many Reverse Vending Machines (RVM). The system is poorly implemented like the Queensland system and billions of dollars have been wasted on schemes that just make no sense in anyway.

It would have been cheaper, had minimal impact on the environment, had a very high container return rate and been a lot quicker to implement to have Reverse Vending Machines fitted to most supermarkets. This way the consumer can return the containers when they do their shopping next, no need for special trips, no environmental issues with all the travel, no time wasted as it becomes part of your grocery shopping, no need to register to multiple services nor have to work out how it works at another deport. All you do is insert your containers and when you are done you receive a voucher for the supermarket which you can also receive cash for.

The Queensland Container Refund Scheme continues to worsen and what is the cost to the environment?

The Container Refund Schemes (called a different name in every state of course) in Australia are so utterly absurd. I’ve written about the Queensland system and shown that a Reverse Vending Machine (RVM) would have been a fraction of the price and meant that people can return their empty containers when they do their shopping.

We already knew from South Australian experience that depots experiences long queues of cars lined up idling for long periods of time and your average car can hold maybe 200 to 500 containers depending on how many bottles you have and this gives you $20 to $50 but factor in your costs of getting to the deport in time and wear and tear and how much are you really getting back and what cost to the environment are all these trips?

Reed Recycling in Townsville

What a great way to spend the weekend, sitting in your car and sucking on the fumes of the car in front whilst waiting to get a return on a deposit that may end up costing you money to get back.

Reed Recycling in Townsville

And when you do get to the front of the line you get to unload your car, and if you left the bottle caps on to stop them leaking you have to remove them before you hand them over for counting. And don’t crush or otherwise damage the containers or they won’t be accepted if they can’t see the barcode area.

Reed Recycling in Townsville

Job creation in Queensland at work. Instead of using machines that can process these at the point of sale and take care of all the work we get humans to double, triple and quadruple handle the containers.

Container drop off in Bowen

Drop your containers off at some locations but of course they are often full so some people put their labels on your bags! And don’t forget that some companies will keep all your containers if you don’t have the exact number that they specify in the bag. Why would you want to return your containers when you go shopping, it’s much more interesting going on a road trip and burning your fuel.

Staff and contractors have been ripped off by a Charters Towers depot that has since done a runner. Payments being delayed for six or more weeks are still common.

COEX spokesperson Adam Nicholson would not discuss specifics while investigations were ongoing, but said their priority was ensuring customers were not left out of pocket.

“We have seen a massive response, far more than we or anyone else predicted,” he said.

“I think we are experiencing twice the number or volume of containers as seen in New South Wales, so we’ve really load-tested our scheme since day one.

“The positive is that we know where our areas for improvement, are and we’re working really hard behind the scenes.”

COEX spokesperson Adam Nicholson

So Queensland has experienced twice the number or volume of containers as seen in New South Wales? That doesn’t sound correct but surely COEX wouldn’t mislead us?

Between the 1st of November 2018 and I assume the 21st of January 2019 (going by the date on the article) COEX has processed 150 million containers. That is roughly 11 weeks so 13.6 million containers per week.

The NSW system handled 1.3 billion over 14 months so 61 weeks which is 21 million containers a week.

So COEX has been caught misleading the public with false statistics, if I can look them up surely COEX can. Is it asking too much for Government sponsored organisations to actually know the industry they are working in?

Container deposit scheme demand creates mountain of cans at recycling depot

Just when you thought that Queensland’s Container Refund Scheme was already complicated along come additional inane requirements!

The companies and organisations involved in the Container Refund Scheme (CRS) have their own rules on how containers are to be returned and with very few sites having Reverse Vending Machines they require you to register your details including bank account, bag up the containers, return them to a Container Refund Point and wait up to six weeks for a refund after they are manually counted.

If the manual count gives a substantially lower number like it has for many people there is no avenue to dispute this.

Each of these Container Refund Points have their own rules on the types of bags, some will provide you bags but often run out and if this is the case you have to travel to another CRP until you find one with bags that you can use. Most of the Container Refund Points will not let you use single use bags, instead you have to buy from the supermarket stronger multiple use bags and nearly all of them will not accept black bags for the safety of the sorting staff so this requires the purchase of more expensive clear bags.

Now one of the companies that requires you to use their own orange coloured bags Envirobank require you to put in exactly 50 containers, no more and no less or they will declare the bag as ineligible (see below for details). But it continues to get better, you cannot drop off 11 bags or more, if you have 501 containers or more you have to go to a depot and make a Statutory Deceleration which will require you to find a Justice of the Peace to witness the signature. All this for $50.10 or more! You couldn’t make this up!

Checking their website there is no mention of the 50 container requirement on their How It Works page which shows a very simple process. Further to this they operate an ineligible bag policy that allows them to keep the containers and void your payment so if you put in 49 or 51 containers it’s goodbye refund!

I checked the Queensland Legislation on this and can find no reference to 500 containers however found that NSW requires a statutory declaration to be made that you purchased the containers in NSW so it’s unknown if they impose this requirement in Queensland or not.

Queensland Legislation does contain this however but it is not clear where and when this applies.

Division 3 Refund amounts for empty containers 20 Bulk quantity—Act, s99T New section 20 defines bulk quantity, for the purposes of providing a refund declaration to a container refund point operator, as at least 1,500 empty containers.

Container Refund Scheme Regulation 2018

Looking at their terms of service shows even more strange requirements including their right to keep your containers without paying you compensation if you include any ineligible containers or waste.

This is also confirmed on a popular forum.

One of the recycling scheme vendors in Queensland (Envirobank) just announced that they will only accept bags that have exactly 50 containers in it. If you have less, you forfeit the entire bag. I exclusively use 1.25L bottles and therefore it is impossible to get 50 into a bag. This is getting beyond ridiculous. I clearly won’t use them anymore but my incentive to use this scheme in general is further diminished.

Whirlpool Post

The even have instructions on how to use the bags, instead of creating a bag that is easy to use they have instead forced the onus onto those returning containers to figure out a solution.

Q. How do I close my orange bags properly?

A. It may seem like a silly question, but it’s more complicated than you think.

You know that the product your delivering is overly complex when you need such lengthy instructions on closing a bag and which make you have such lengthy terms and conditions and terms of service.

All this for a Container Refund Scheme that is truly a fantastic example of Idiocracy. The CRS could have required Reverse Vending Machines to be installed at Supermarkets so you can return your containers from the place you purchased them from when you go shopping. But why go simple, logical and cheap when you can do the opposite?

Queensland’s Container Refund Scheme now requires lids to be removed for safety!

The stupidity of the Queensland Government Container Refund Scheme really knows no bounds, not content with the inefficiency of this complicated, expensive and cumbersome system when much simpler and cheaper options exist they have now require lids to be removed!

Two reasons are given, one is safety as the lids can fly off at high speed apparently and the other is that the plastic of the lid is different and they don’t recycle it. But why is this the problem of the person returning these bottles, do they now transport bottles in their vehicle that leak or do they spend time removing lids at the Container Refund Points and throw them into the landfill bin?

All other countries that offer refunds on containers accept them back with with the lids, the Reverse Vending Machines used throughout parts of Europe and other parts of the world have no problems with lids being fitted and many of these actually crush the bottle to reduce the storage space required in the store. Googling for deaths or injuries from “bottle tops” has found nothing so why is Queensland and the rest of Australia so special that these pose a real and imminent danger? Over the top workplace heath and safety laws? Stupidity? Who really knows.

From the Containers for Change Instagram post on this subject.

The lids off policy is not working. It is ‘encouraging’ littering near the refund collection points. This morning I picked up 242 plastic lids that were thrown in the surrounding roadside vegetation. This scheme was set up to address littering – it is obviously lids MUST be included in the scheme to decrease this littering. The full container must be recovered not just the ‘valuable/easy to recycle PET.

plasticfreeseas – Take off your container caps – Instagram

Hi @plasticfreeseas – we appreciate your help with this. Hi Tracey, lids and bottles are different types of plastic so need to be recycled separately. Lids can also cause safety issues, shooting off bottles at high speeds if they’re crushed. So if you’re returning your containers to a container refund point or recycling them through your Council bin, the lids need to be taken off. Our CRPs have bins at their sites if people forget to do this before arriving.

4changeqld – Take off your container caps – Instagram

@4changeqld Yes I know the plastics are different types. That is not an excuse not to recycle the whole container just the PET. I’m all for separating the lids for safety reasons but there is a responsibility for the scheme to deal with this part of the container not landfill them (or have them end up as small bits of litter). This is a flaw in the scheme fundamentals and should be addressed alongside the PET container. Offsetting this externality of business is unacceptable practice.

plasticfreeseas – Take off your container caps – Instagram

As usual all the hard questions that make sense are ignored such as the following.

So now everyone is asked to drive all the way to a depot to deliver bottles. What will that cost the environment? Kerbside recycling seems far more environmental on that measure.

peterstelmach – Take off your container caps – Instagram

And the following which is only responded to with a contact us message. These issues are quite common and they have made it clear on their website that they will not look into any discrepancies.

I have been saving my eligible bottles for 2 months now. I dropped them off in 6 filled garbage bags and just got my notice that I was paid $2.50. Please explain. I feel that I have been scammed and to think that my whole family have been on a recycling mission to do our best for the environment. We were going to invest the money into a recycling system to help us continue this program at our business. $2.50 might get us some plastic garbage bags to put future bottles in. However, we thought the aim was to REDUCE the use of plastics. Not create more once use wastage.

no_sixty8 – Take off your container caps – Instagram