Container deposit legislation in Australia
Container deposit legislation (CDL) also known as a Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) is in place in the Australian state of South Australia and the territory of the Northern Territory, and was used in the state of Victoria many years ago but was rescinded. New South Wales has announced plans to start a scheme in 2017. Queensland has also announced it will pursue a scheme in partnership with NSW for implementation in 2018. Western Australia has also announced plans for a scheme in 2018 as well.
Attempts to introduce similar legislation in other states have been unsuccessful to date. A Newspoll survey found a majority of people in Australia support a deposit scheme, and a national scheme has also been proposed. The NSW scheme has been opposed by companies that sell drinks in containers.
The value of deposits and the scope of their application have been influenced by the Australian federal constitution's guarantee of free trade between the states. The defining case in this issue was the attempt to introduce a differential between reusable and recyclable bottle deposits. The issue was taken to the High Court of Australia in the Castlemaine Tooheys Ltd v South Australia court case. State based schemes need to be exempted from the Commonwealth Mutual Recognition Act which guarantees products can be sold in any jurisdiction without requiring any special labelling. This formed the basis of legal action against the Northern Territories' scheme until an exemption was granted. South Australia, Northern Territory and soon New South Wales is offering 10c to anyone who donates an empty container.
CDL by state
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT government has always been supportive of container deposit legislation, but has never acted alone due to its relatively small size and being inside the much larger state of NSW. They have always said if NSW adopts a scheme they will follow suit. This is likely to become a reality in 2017 as NSW has now officially declared a CDS will be implemented by December 2017. 
New South Wales
The New South Wales government has indicated it wishes to push ahead with a container deposit scheme in 2015 as part of a raft of new policies aimed at protecting the environment and doing more to prevent litter and pollution entering the state's rivers, oceans, and parks. The scheme has strong backing from the public, various politicians, NSW councils, and various environmental groups such as Cleanup Australia, Boomerang Alliance, and Total Environment Centre.
Environmental groups have said that if NSW does push ahead with a scheme, it will pave the way for the rest of the jurisdictions to follow suit. NSW is the most populous state with the most beverage containers being sold, consumed and discarded in the country.
As of February 2015 it has been revealed that the Baird government has been under a well planned, sustained attack from multiple beverage industry companies and their executives. They have organised the lobbying of various members of parliament in NSW and other jurisdictions (even at the federal level) in order to gain influence over Mike Baird and Minister for the Environment, Rob Stokes, in order to force them to abandon plans for a container deposit scheme in NSW. The beverage industry has even threatened to run scare campaign election advertising. The government has said that all of this time and money spent on lobbying has ultimately failed to change their position and the scheme will go ahead and is currently being designed. They have also invited the beverage industry to get on board.
The NSW government initially announced the start date of a container deposit/refund system being July 2017, however this has now been extended to December 2017 following requests from environment groups and industry bodies. Between now and then the finer details will be worked out, utilizing the best parts of other jurisdictional deposit schemes. Reverse vending machines like Envirobank in key areas look to be part of this scheme. The refundable deposit is likely to be 10 cents.
On May 8, 2016 it was officially announced the NSW will be implementing a full 10c Container Deposit Scheme after looking at many options, including public submissions and industry alternatives. As it stands, drink containers from 150ml in size up to 3L will be covered as long as it has the appropriate NSW labelling. There will be some exclusions - such as wine bottles - as it is mainly targeting drink containers consumed away from home. Draft legislation will be brought forward and an implementation advisory group will be established to meet the July 1 2017 start date. Premier Baird has been praised for not yielding to big beverage. This will affect the ACT and also QLD which are currently examining options for a state based scheme.
The Northern Territory introduced a container deposit scheme similar to South Australia's from 3 January 2012. This was challenged in the Federal Court by Coca-Cola Amatil, Schweppes Australia and Lion Pty Ltd using the Commonwealth Mutual Recognition Act and the scheme ceased on 4 of March 2013. Immediately after the Federal Court loss, the NT government stepped in to personally keep the scheme going until a permanent exemption to the Mutual Recognition Act could be secured. On 7 August 2013 the Federal Executive Council (ExCo) ratified the permanent exemption making the NT container deposit scheme completely legal and permanent.
Due to this, all beverage containers sold in Australia now must bear the words "10c refund at SA/NT collection depots in state/territory of purchase".
As of 2013, the Newman government has indicated it does not want to increase the cost of QLD residents' costs of living, seeing the refund scheme as more of a tax rather than a refundable deposit even though 85% of Queenslanders are in favor of a scheme according to a Newspoll.
As of February 2015, the newly elected Palaszczuk government has indicated a total overhaul of the state's environmental policies including supporting a national container deposit scheme and also a state based container deposit scheme. It is likely that QLD will follow suit with NSW.
In May 2015 the QLD government announced its support for a Cash for Containers scheme in Queensland, potentially in 2018 after NSW implements its own scheme. The QLD environment minister says he was inspired by trash that was sent to his office. He has ordered a review and wants to establish an advisory group to help his department with a consultation process with the public and stake holders commencing later this year. He also says he will work with NSW. Eventually the The Queensland government on July 22, 2016 announced that State will have a Container Deposit Scheme to get drink cans and bottles off our beaches, and out of our parks and public areas. The government confirmed that the initiative will start from July 1, 2018.
In the days when bottles were washed and re-used, drinks manufacturers paid shopkeepers and "marine store collectors" ("bottle-ohs") for the return of their (proprietary) containers, both bottles and crates. By arrangement between the manufacturers, the refund to the consumer was standardized (for many decades 2 pence, later 6 pence or 5c. for soft drink bottles and ½ pence for generic beer bottles) and the collectors received a premium for their part in the process. A substantial cost was incurred by the manufacturer in the transportation, sorting, storage, washing and sterilizing of the bottles and their inspection for contamination and damage. With the advent of cheaper single-use bottles great savings were achievable, and their subsequent disposal the responsibility of the consumer.
CDL in South Australia was put in place under the Beverage Container Act 1975 (SA) and came into operation in 1977. Environment Protection Act 1993 (SA) now governs the levying and refund of deposits.
There is a refund of 10 cents per can or bottle (raised from 5 cents in late 2008). In the 1970s deposits ranged from 20c for a 30 oz bottle and 10c for a 10 oz and 6½ oz bottle. With the introduction of plastic and non re-usable bottles the deposit was reduced to 5c (including aluminium cans). This amount remained unchanged for around thirty years.
Around 600 people are employed in the recovery of bottles in South Australia. Groups such as the Scouts operate container refund depots. While there are professional collectors who collect on an arranged basis from particular venues (e.g. pubs and restaurants), usually operating small trucks for the job, there are also many socially marginalised collectors who forage in spots such as refuse bins for discarded deposit bottles; these collectors often travel by bicycle, sometimes with relatively elaborate and inventive modifications to allow them to carry bulky loads of bottles.
Until 2008, every beverage container in Australia bore the words "5c refund at SA collection depots in state of purchase". This changed to "10c refund at SA collection depots in state of purchase" in late 2008. Since the Northern Territory started their own scheme in 2012, this message has changed again.
In December 2014 a state based deposit scheme was rejected by the government, citing costs and the need to ship containers to the Australian mainland for processing. Various environmental organisations, including The Greens and many Tasmanian local councils have been pushing for a scheme in Tasmania for many years. Most people are in favour of a scheme according to various studies that have been conducted over the years.
The state of Victoria once had a CDL scheme, but it was rescinded. In 2009 the Victorian Greens introduced a bill for a 10c deposit scheme, which was passed in the upper house but the government quashed the bill in the lower house, allegedly on constitutional grounds, by refusing to allow it to be debated. Despite supporting the Greens' bill when in opposition, when it later became the government the Coalition decided it would not back a bottle refund scheme. Instead, it said it would support a national scheme if one were created.
In 2012/2013, the Napthine government indicated its strong support for a state based scheme possibly in partnership with NSW. Since there has now been a change of government, the legislation has not been introduced into parliament as of January 2015.
In February 2015, the then Environment Minister Lisa Neville has publicly said she is not in favour of a container deposit scheme for Victoria. She believes current recycling programs are good enough, even though Clean-up Australia claims beverage related rubbish in Victoria now outnumbers cigarette related rubbish.
In 2011, opposition Labor and Greens MPs called for the introduction of a container deposit scheme. The Minister for Environment, Bill Marmion, said that WA would wait for a national "consultation regulatory impact statement" to be completed at the end of 2011 before taking any action.
In August 2016, the WA Government announced a State container deposit scheme commencing in 2018. Minister for the Environment Albert Jacob said that efforts to pursue a national scheme had "fallen by the wayside" but that Western Australia's policy should be aligned with recent changes in Queensland and New South Wales.
Through the early 20th century, when the cost of producing glass bottles was higher, a natural industry of glass bottle collectors and merchants performed a similar function to the modern CDL. Bottle accumulators, a licensed and unionized workforce commonly known as "bottle-ohs" from their street cries, travelled by cart around the streets buying empty bottles from households and businesses. They would then sell the bottles to a bottle yard, which would store and sort the bottles before selling them in bulk to brewers and other bottlers. It was an industry from which a bottle-oh could make a good living; in 1904, they could buy a dozen beer bottles for 6d., sell them to the bottle yard for 9d., who could sell them to brewers for 1s. The commercial reuse of glass bottles and the bottle collecting industry had all but disappeared by the 1950s. Soft drink and other beverage bottles were still collected in Queensland and returned for deposits up to the late 1960s.
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