CHOICE membership

RECYCLING : is it a farce in Australia?


It will take a group of people - I try not to hope for a replacement for someone like this, it just never seems to happen. Sad day indeed. Like any passing, I feel we need to celebrate how lucky we are that he was who he was, rather than mourn ‘the loss’, because the former feels like it pays him far more respect than the latter …


As it is less than 3 days until the Qld Container Deposit Scheme commences, I thought I would find out just where the much touted “Reverse Vending Machines” were already installed and waiting in anticipation of the steady stream of customers.

Apparently, these fabulous innovations will not be in Cairns on 01.11.2018 but we will instead have the Qld Government’s leading-edge technology akin to the “rag and bone man” except he used to actually call to his customers’ homes thus saving them the trip.

You either take your containers to 1 of 3 depots to get an over-the-counter cash refund, or drop them off at 1 of 2 locations.

Thankfully, one of the 3 depots is a long standing local business owned and operated by a local resident who has operated an independent recycling business for decades, whom I would trust implicitly, having been both a supplier and a customer for as long as he has been in business.

For any Qld residents wanting to avoid prices rises after 31.01.2018, now is the time to shop.


I absolutely agree. I would love to recycle as instructed but the differences, especially in plastics is almost impossible to determine without reference to a huge list of alternatives! Who has the time? Also many cheap plastics have no discernable disposable advice! Of course, this mad rush to recycle correctly has been driven by the Chinese refusal to accept the massive amount of ‘rubbish’ they previously imported! Good for them and a total jungle of rules for us to navigate!


The government should have adopted this approach rather than the specialised container collection sites (which will be scattered around the countryside and require one to make special trips to).

Recently in our travels through Europe, we noticed that they have mostly adopted the reverse vending machine approach. Virtually all major supermarkets have a reverse vending machine where one can take containers for the refund of the deposit (there is a limitation that containers only available in that particular supermarket one can get credit for…but one can buy at a different supermarket and take it to another if the same product is sold).

The reverse vending machines give the customer a coupon which us used at the register as credit for the next purchase.

This option seems far simpler than that adopted in Queensland and requires little additional effort other than remembering to take empty containers when next doing a grocery shop.

It is also worth noting that alcohol is sold in supermarkets so there is no need for all businesses (e.g. bottle shops) to have the vending machines.

In Queensland, the reverse vending machines could have been placed in the car park of the supermarket/shopping centre ()only a few car parks would be needed) and the car parks rented using money from those containers collected by not returned.

Seems a easy solution, but one our government failed to see,


Victoria announced new rules for electronic / electrical waste. Government claims there will be improved access to recycling / disposal facilities to follow, and every Victorian will be within 20 minutes of one. The former is a good step and I’ll believe the latter when they factor in metro traffic to those 20 minutes.


At the Return and Earn machine today, I was amused at how much of the recycling was brought along in plastic bags - which, when emptied, went straight into nearby red-topped bins.


Having stored our aluminium cans and Corona bottles for several months, I took them to our local recycling agent yesterday.

An article in the local newspaper stated that they had processed around 35,000 containers last Friday so I waited to around 2:00 PM when I expected it would be less busy.

I was the only customer and the staff removed all the cartons out of our vehicle and very quickly counted them, before telling me to drive to the other end of the building where the office is.

The lady printed out a receipt and handed me $37.60 in cash.

I asked whether they receive a payment for providing the service or if they just kept the containers.

She said that they receive 6 cents per container but that the containers are all sent to our local Council’s recycling depot.

There were a couple of fancy new machines installed near the office, one of which had a large bin for the aluminium cans to be placed in prior to being tipped into a hopper, crushed, and placed in large containers ready for transport.


Got to the Return and Earn machine a little late yesterday, but still before 10am. It was full (not taking further materials for recycling). This reportedly happens repeatedy. The machine is one of two serving a population of about 50,000.

Could this be classified as a farce? Is it just politicians making sure they’re seen to be doing something?


Something’s not right here:

“Over the last two years we have paid close to $16 or $17 million in the waste levy and had barely 10 per cent of that back into the community for reuse programs,”


An interesting article regarding landfills and recycling.


Yes, they don’t have landfills, but the ABC didn’t provide information on what happens to its non-recyclable waste.

Most non-recyclable combustible waste is incinerated (happened to see one in passing a few months ago). Being a small country, with limited land, option would be export (high transport costs) or deal with locally. Local incineration therefore makes sense.


Looks like there may be a solution for printer toner cartridges, which have been difficult to recycle at their end of life (when refilling no longer practicable or possible).

While soft plastic recycling is not new, its use in asphalt is something a little different and may be another option for its reuse.

The only question about this is what happens to the added plastic as the road weathers Hopefully it doesn’t become another source of fugitive plastic in the environment.

I suppose it it isn’t the case, it is a far better solution than the same materials going to landfill.


Hopefully it is not recycled as a micro plastic but is converted to something the environment can consume safely?

Everything that wears on the road, bitumous compounds, plasticers and tyre polymers probably goes to storm water! And then the ocean? One more good reason to capture all urban run off and recycle it?


Which is a problem in Queensland with some locations apparently wanting you to buy supermarket re-usable bags that you have to donate and other locations requiring you to use their special bags and yet others wanting you to use clear plastic bags… None of which you get back!

Choice should look at the environmental costs of all the extra travel, I’ve tried to work out the cost but unless I keep a years worth it doesn’t make any sense to make a trip and it seems like I’m not alone on that.


Having recently travelled ro Europe, we saw first habpnd on how to run a container deposit scheme that minimises imoact and inconvenience to the consumer (in store/supermarket vending machines which give dockets of deposit credit).

While I full support a container deposit scheme, I am very critical of how that Queensland (and NSW) schemes have been set up. The main problem is they require one to make special trips to CDS facilities which costs the consumer considerable time and money. They also discriminate against the old (many who no longer drive), those who are not well off (and live on the outskirts of towns/cities and/or costs of running a vehicle is a significant living expenses) or disabled (and can’t get to a facility). For these groups as well as others who don’t collect the deposit, the deposit is an additonal tax they pay.

The scheme was sold indicating that it will solve a litter problem. Anyone who has collected litter for say clean up Australia would know that containers are not the dominate type of litter…and only one of many sources. Fast food wrapping and soft plastics are far more significant and more of a problem in the environment.

If one was into conspiracies, one would thnk the scheme has been set up to reduce the opportunity to maximise the number of containers collected by the scheme, so that more money is ‘available’ to those who benefit from the deposits not collected.

The author in the link has nailed many of the issues and I agree with most of them. I also beleive tpit has been set upnas a legacy project rather than one which will make a big difference. It could however been a different outcome if some better thought was given to how to implement a great scheme…like that in many European countries like Germany and Austria.


I too support the scheme, with some reservations.
In a month I’ve already saved up 60c from a six pack of beer. :yum:

Unfortunately everything else over the past month has gone in the recycling bin, as per usual. :disappointed_relieved:

Will I drink less wine and more beer to save the planet? It is too early to tell. :rofl:

p.s. Our nearest recycle point is at the hotel bottle shop in the next township. No cash, you need to bag and register for a refund to your bank account. Our local bottle shop is owned by the same business, but no option to drop off there!


I just can’t fathom how we can take a scheme like this and screw it up so badly. Why can’t we return them to the point of purchase and use the reverse vending machines? Instead we create a mess of depots to return them to that are out of the way, require a special trip as you need to fill the car to make it even remotely worthwhile and even afterwards you have still lost out on time and fuel and when you arrive at the depot each one is different so you may end up having to go to another depot like I’ve read happening to numerous people around Brisbane (depots closed early, full and won’t accept anymore, run out of bags so won’t take anymore etc).

All this is going to end up is yet another tax that the producers and retailers profit from like in NSW (something like $30 million a month I was reading). This money should have been spent on reverse vending machines and expanding kerbside recycling where it is viable and installing recycling locations at supermarkets where it’s not viable to have kerbside recycling. Instead we have a lot of people employed in what is a menial job and I don’t mean to put down the workers who have to count the cans and bottles but surely we could put them to better use and let machines handle the work?

I see very little benefit to the environment especially as they don’t take all containers, I would prefer to use my kerbside recycling like I always have done but if I had to return cans and bottles to the supermarket I would but as it stands I don’t know if it’s worth me participating and I suspect I’ll end up donating to council via the recycling bin.

Those that litter will still do it and given the cans and bottles have to be in good condition I can’t see a lot of the rubbish being collected by those wanting to cash in, there was an article about a boy in NSW who collected cans and bottles in the lead-up to the introduction of their system and he was able to deposit around 2000 containers out of the 8000 that he collected, the other 6000 were crushed, damaged or weathered and they wouldn’t accept them.


This is my biggest criticism of the Queensland Scheme. One has to make special effort to take the containers to a facility to receive one’s deposit. As outlined by @mark_m, in his case one has to drive to the next town to receive the deposit already paid. It is highly likely that the cost of returning the container (both to the consumer and environmentally) will be greater than the benefit (receiving the refund). In such cases, one will not return container as the cost and inconvenience will be too great.

The system is also awkward with each facility having its own processes/requirements in relation to how containers are received and how deposits are given. This is confusing and in some cases, unless one registers and has a consumer number linked to ones bank account, it will not be possible to get a refund. Why it wasn’t standardised is anyone’s guess as it is very inefficient to say the least.

I experienced container deposit schemes in Munich, Salzburg and Vienna. These were customer focused and like you said, the return deposit machines were located on the wall of the supermarket…taking up a small amount of the back store storage room. The only limitation was that these machines only accepted returned containers from products sold within that store (noting that the container could be bought elsewhere and returned to this store/chain)…which is okay if one tends to frequent the same store chain or buy mostly big brand/widely available products. Unusual or niche product containers may be difficult to return if the original place of purchase is not nearby.

While it may be impracticable to introduce the refund machines within existing supermarkets, bottle shops etc, in many cases, they could have designed a system based on a shipping container which is placed in one or more carparks at the shopping centre/supermarket. They could be linked wirelessly to collecting facilities which would come and collect the returned containers when the refund point is near capacity. While the owner of the property containing the carparks/store may not be happy with loss of carparks, there could be some form of dispensation to the carpark owner such as a modest rent paid from unclaimed deposits. They could also receive other form of compensation as well for the ‘inconvenience’. The containers could also be placed in positions which don’t take up carparks such as in garden areas or within the store mall floor area.

The Queensland scheme is disappointing and appears cobbled together in attempt to seen to be doing something. I just hope if there is a change in government, someone with their heads screwed on looks at the current scheme, what works and occurs overseas and then modifies the existing scheme. Failure to do so will most likely result in the long failure of the scheme.

BTW…in our area it has not reduced the amount of container being thrown out. Even this morning I collected (which I did before the scheme was introduced for recycling), a Bundaberg Rum Premix can and a 500mL water bottle on my morning walk (which I will now collect the deposit for instead of being placed in our kerbside collected recycling bin). About the same amount collected pre-scheme. The initial premise that the scheme will reduce litter is highly flawed as $0.10 per container is not worthy for most to recoup as the effort exceeds the reward.


We’ve used the German system over many years and we have never had problems returning single use bottles and cans to any of the major supermarkets (ALDI, LIDL, REWE etc) anywhere in Germany. The only problems you have are single use bottles from outside of Germany (there is a security ink marking on German containers) and some multi-use containers from other areas or states.

The system is simple, it takes up minimal floor space either inside or outside the store (similar to an ATM) and is used by everyone as part of their daily routine. I don’t believe that any of the supermarkets that I frequent would have problems or lack of space to place one of these inside the entry or just outside and they are not expensive whereas I believe the Queensland Government spent $40 million or more on starting this up.

The Australian schemes are beyond absurd/stupid/whatever, we returned from a few months in Europe just prior to the startup of the Queensland mess and I couldn’t be more annoyed at the opportunity that we missed and the massive amount of money that was once again wasted.

Both major parties in Queensland and other states support this same method of operation.

If you look at the low rates of recycling in Queensland this is partially because of the lack of kerbside recycling outside SEQ and a 10c deposit isn’t going to be a deterrent to those that are unwilling to use a rubbish bin. And you’re correct about 10c being too little to make a big difference.

I have to question the cost to the environment of this system as it does not appear that the environmental, congestion or time cost from millions of trips each year to depots has been considered. In NSW and QLD there are many towns where you have to drive hours to return the containers, fair enough if you were making the trip anyway but there is a still a cost and if you have children doing this thinking they are making a difference many parents will feel compelled to make trips to support their children.

And what about the water that will be used to rinse all the containers to stop them from attracting vermin and ants? And the water used to rinse out bottles because the reverse vending machines and manual sorting requires the lid to be removed (unlike Europe!).

At best it’s one step forward and many backwards. However many people, the media and organisations are praising the government so I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong and it’s a great idea! Or maybe the media and those organisations are profiting from this backwards scheme?