Image above: The CDS panel: Shaun Fraser, Container Exchange QLD; Danielle Smalley, Exchange for Change; Alex Young, Director CDS, NSW EPA; Rob Kelman, Reloop Platform; and Michelle Mandl, TOMRA Cleanaway

The Future of CDS in Australia – Coffs Harbour Waste 2023 Panel Discussion.

As Victoria’s ‘CDS Vic’ rolls out in November, with TOMRA Cleanaway installing the first Victorian refund point late last month, and Tasmania’s container deposit scheme starting to take shape, Australia is on the cusp of being the only continent to be fully covered by drink container refund schemes.

Present at the CDS panel at the Waste 2023 Conference in Coffs Harbour were: Shaun Fraser, Container Exchange QLD; Danielle Smalley, Exchange for Change; Alex Young, Director CDS, NSW EPA; Rob Kelman, Reloop Platform; and our very own Michelle Mandl, TOMRA Cleanaway.

Michelle Mandl, General Manager of Communications, Customer & Engagement at TOMRA Cleanaway, said the NSW’s Return and Earn scheme had activated local communities and leveraged a retail model that aligns to existing customer behaviours.

TOMRA Cleanaway has been appointed the ‘West Zone’ network operator for the Victorian container deposit scheme, with plans to deliver a technology-focused system featuring robust verifications and audits. But Michelle commented that while the system is proven, when looking at future risks, there needs to be a discussion about increasing the deposit value from 10 cents and focusing on targeting Australia’s next generation of recyclers.

“I reflect on out-of-home activities, like taking my 13-year-old to Harry Styles and paying $6.70 for a bottle of water at the stadium,” Michelle said. “Even I, as an invested participant in the scheme, found it a hard sell to think, ‘will I take that home with me? Will I put it in my bins and participate in Return and Earn?’

“If you multiply that across the community, the redemption rate is a lever that will increase participation which in turn delivers higher value, clean stream of product for the circular economy locally.”

Michelle observed that schemes are currently aimed at adults because they predominantly buy the beverages, but in five to 10 years’ time, it will be the teenagers of today who need to be engaged in the scheme.

“We need to get their mindset around the environmental benefit because we know that that appeals to them now.”

Considering the intent of a behaviour change program like a container deposit scheme, it is important to consider the needs and expectations of new participants as they enter the scheme, as there is a continuous funnel of customers entering the target demographics of participants. There is little effort put into the engagement of this group as they move into adulthood, and greater investment in marketing, education and engagement is continually required.

National return rates average about 65 to 68 per cent, according to Reb Kelman, Director of Reloop Platform. As about three to four billion drink containers are still littered or landfilled every year, Australia could do a lot better.

Alex Young, Director of the Container Deposit Scheme at the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (EPA) , said the EPA is mindful of the scheme’s plateauing and is working with partners Exchange for Change and TOMRA Cleanaway to drive more convenience and improve recovery rates.

“We’ve got more than 600 return points, which is significantly more than the minimum required in the legislation, so we know that we’re driving that convenience. We’ve collected over 9.3 billion containers, so we’re seeing good collection rates, we’ve reduced litter by 53 per cent and we’ve doubled the resource recovery rate compared to kerbside prior to the scheme.”

“Not only that, but what we’ve seen is really high-quality recycling – bottle-to-bottle recycling”

This article first appears in Waste Management Review.