A recently released white paper on what makes a great container deposit scheme has been developed by TOMRA’s global experts’ team. The research is focussed on investigating the consistent success factors across multiple container deposit markets. These success factors; Performance, Convenience, Producer Responsibility and System Integrity are the hallmarks of a ‘great’ container deposit scheme (CDS) and are generalised as being in common across multiple geographies around the globe. This valuable analysis of container deposit schemes’ differences draws on TOMRA’s considerable experience in managing container deposit systems in different global jurisdictions.

Circular economy outcomes for container deposit schemes is a must. Whilst container collections provide a deposit return opportunity to consumers, without surety of recycling, there is little value in a container return scheme that does not focus on the whole of the lifecycle of the containers being collected.

The ultimate purpose of the analysis into global container deposit schemes is to enable stakeholders with interest in container deposit markets to gain a helicopter view on why some container deposit schemes succeed, and others fail – what makes a ‘good’ container deposit scheme, and what takes things to the next level and provides stakeholders and consumers with a ‘great’ container deposit scheme.



With growing awareness of waste issues and an increasing number of countries, including Australia, paying heed to the and legislating in favour of container deposit schemes, and export waste bans, the white paper’s production is timely. The paper delivers a global reflection on what makes a high-performing container return scheme of value in delivering improved social, economic and especially environmental outcomes.

As awareness increases in our community regarding Australian waste bans, the question being asked is ‘what do we do with plastic container waste?’ Community expectations increasingly dictate that the government is responsible for providing their citizens with an effective, efficient and sustainable solution to plastic waste. Circular Economy must be front of mind when delivering these solutions. Fortunately, in Australia, recycling of plastics – especially single-use plastic drinks containers-is rising.  The importance of recycling, building a circular economy and increasing the domestic recyclables markets demonstrate a commitment to the environment and industry at state and federal levels.

Governments’ commitment to recycling is specifically evidenced by the delivery of container deposit schemes in all but two Australian states. NSW – QLD – WA – SA and NT all operate container deposit schemes, different systems with different outcomes, but all a commitment to recycling and the future. Only two states remain to implement a scheme and target drink container recycling and more specifically, single-use plastic waste. Tasmania’s Government has promised a container refund scheme by 2022, and the Victorian Government has promised a container deposit scheme will be in place by 2023.

Both future schemes will deliver what the respective state governments establish as best practice for their waste and recycling industry, but more importantly, best practice for their community and the environment.


Different container deposit schemes deliver varying outcomes, of primary significance is depending on system design. The white paper ” draws on TOMRA’s over 45 years of experience in providing a range of services and reverse vending technology to deposit systems in 40 deposit markets. Reverse vending machines provide an accessible and convenient option to return eligible drinks containers for recycling and obtaining a refund. Technology within the machine collects and sort containers and accounts for each container accepted. Globally, TOMRA has over 84,000 reverse vending machines capturing more than 40 billion used beverage containers worldwide each year!

Armed with this level of expertise and front line operation of various systems globally, TOMRA evaluated container deposit models against a variety of metrics such as cost efficiency and container redemption rates, and found that the most effective deposit systems share four success factors:

  • Performance: A collection target for all beverage containers plus a meaningful deposit delivers strong results.
  • Convenience: The redemption system is easy, accessible and fair for all users.
  • Producer Responsibility: Producers finance and invest in the system using the unredeemed deposits, commodity revenues, and an eco-modulated EPR fee.
  • System Integrity: Trust is built into the system’s processes through transparent management, a data-driven clearinghouse, and reliable redemption technology.

The research also examines the 12 key policy elements underpinning the success factors that put these principles into practice, and shares case studies of regions that are best at delivering on those elements in their deposit return systems. The Return and Earn scheme in NSW is identified as one of these due to a split responsibility model where TOMRA Cleanaway is contracted for end to end network operation including container collection and commodity recycling and scheme coordinator Exchange for Change is contracted for financial administration, risk and audit activities and marketing. The NSW Government also plays an integral role in the scheme through the NSW Environmental Protection Authority managing regulation and overall contractor obligations and performance.

Image credit: TOMRA https://www.tomra.com/en/collection/reverse-vending/deposit-return-schemes/white-paper



To find out more about the success factors for a great container deposit scheme, download the white paper Rewarding Recycling: Learnings from the World’s Highest-Performing Deposit Return Systems”.

Further information will also be available through an upcoming webinar, where TOMRA will provide insight into the success factors for high-performing deposit return systems on Wednesday 23 February at 9am US Eastern Time / 3pm Central European Time. Register for the webinar here.

A series of quarterly TOMRA webinars on each of the success factors of high-performing deposit return systems will follow from this time.

This article first appeared here.