A new container refund scheme (CRS) is scheduled to commence in Queensland from 1 November 2018. We summarise how the scheme will work and its potential impact.

The original start date for the CRS was scheduled for 1 July 2018. However, the Department of Environment and Science recently pushed-back the start date to ensure the Queensland scheme ‘leveraged the lessons learned’ from the rollout of the New South Wales scheme late last year.[1] The NSW scheme has been criticised in the press for a lack of collection points.

The objectives of the CRS is to incentivise the collection and recycling of select types of containers through payment of refunds, so as to divert those containers from landfill and to reduce public litter. So, how will it actually work in practice? We’ve put together a downloadable diagram to help you make sense of the new system. Just click on the button at the top of the page.

How do current container recycling arrangements work?

Local government has traditionally been responsible for resource recovery and waste collection.

Many local governments already have in place comprehensive waste collection, resource recovery and recyclables processing operations which are designed to meet the State’s and the local government’s waste reduction strategies. These operations are conducted directly by the local government or through private contractors appointed by them.

Currently, the predominant means of recycling containers in Queensland is by disposing of them in public and private recycling bins. These containers are collected on behalf of the local government by a collection contractor appointed by the local government. The local government then arranges for the containers and other recyclable material to be processed by a recyclables processing contractor.

What impact might the CRS have on current arrangements?

In the context of the CRS, local governments (and other organisations and businesses) will have the option of becoming ‘operators’ of container refund points, reverse vending machines or material recovery facilities. A ‘reverse vending machine’ will accept suitable containers and dispense the corresponding refund. Expect these machines to start popping-up in some public places closer to the start date.

To become an operator, a local government (or other entity) must, depending on the type of facility it is operating, enter into a Container Collection Agreement or Material Recovery Agreement with the Product Responsibility Organisation. It is up to the local government (or other entity) to approach the Product Responsibility Organisation to request to enter into such an agreement.

The legislation prescribes minimum requirements to be covered-off in those agreements and provides the Product Responsibility Organisation with the ability to decide not to enter into an agreement.

If the CRS is fully implemented, local governments may face increased competition for the collection of recyclable containers. In particular, local governments may observe a reduction in the volume of recyclable containers that they collect from domestic and commercial premises and from public recycling bins. This is partly because private enterprise can also apply to the Product Responsibility Organisation to become operators, potentially diverting containers from the traditional waste streams managed by local government. The general public are also likely to be incentivised to collect and claim refunds for containers.

We expect the Department of Environment and Science to make further announcements about the CRS throughout the year.

The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.