In a significant win for local government, the Return and Earn container deposit scheme began operating on 1 December 2017. This shifts the responsibility (both financial and physical) onto the producer and the consumer, rather than spreading the costs across all ratepayers.
The key characteristics of the scheme largely mirror those that have been advocated by LGNSW over many years:
10-cent refund to consumers for returning a specially marked drink container
Drink containers of between 150ml and 3 litres will be eligible, with the scope largely mirroring that of the SA and NT schemes (excludes plain milk, wine and spirits)
Containers presented through kerbside systems will be redeemable, with Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) operators and local government expected to agree on sharing any refund
Collection points range from large-scale depots through to stand-alone reverse vending machines and pop-up sites
Beverage suppliers provide the 10-cent refund as well as the associated handling and administration fees
A single scheme coordinator, Exchange for Change, has been appointed by the Minister to ensure the scheme meets access and recovery targets. TOMRA Cleanaway is the network operator responsible for the network of collection points.
Under the Return and Earn container deposit scheme, from 1 December 2018, MRF operators are able to claim refunds only for containers collected in a local council's area if the councils they service have:
Notified the EPA that the council has entered into Refund Sharing Agreement with the MRF operator and that it considers the agreement to be fair and reasonable, or
Notified the EPA that the council considers it is fair and reasonable that there is no refund sharing agreement in force with the MRF operator, or
Have entered into a new processing agreement with the MRF operator after 1 December 2017.
Councils must notify the EPA using the Notification Form available from the EPA website. The EPA will provide the relevant details to the Scheme Coordinator, Exchange for Change, to enable MRF operators to continue to make processing refund claims from 1 December 2018. A council that owns and/or operates a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) should also complete the form.
To assist councils access refunds collected via kerbside recycling, the NSW Government has developed a negotiation tool and companion report to help councils develop a negotiating position with the MRF.
LGNSW will continue its advocacy work in relation to transition arrangements for councils (kerbside collection and processing contracts), and informing councils of their options should they seek to be set up or be accredited as return depots.