Where can I take my beverage containers to get a refund?
Most beverage containers sold in South Australia can be returned to collection depots for a refund.
There are approved collection depots located throughout metropolitan and regional areas of South Australia.
A very small number of beverage containers are eligible for a refund from the place of purchase. These containers have a refund marking which states that a refund is available at points of sale, and can be returned to any retailer which sells that product. You cannot take these containers to a collection depot for a refund.
Which containers can I get refunds for?
Refunds are available for a wide range of beverage containers but only if:
- containers bear the approved refund marking
- they were purchased in South Australia.
Why doesn’t the container deposit scheme apply to all beverage containers?
The container deposit scheme started in 1977 to reduce the litter problem created by littered beverage containers and over time it has been extended to cover other frequently littered containers used for bottled waters, small flavoured milk drinks, sports drinks, spirit based ready to drink beverages (whisky, cola, etc).
However, glass containers for wine and spirits and also larger fruit juice and flavoured milk containers (1 litre and above) are not usually found in the litter stream because most of these beverages are consumed at home, or at licensed premises. These containers are generally recovered by kerbside recycling.
Why was I asked to sign a declaration form and provide personal details when I returned a large number of containers?
The South Australian container deposit scheme is only for containers sold in South Australia. Details provided on the declaration forms enable the EPA to monitor and follow up on the delivery of large volumes of containers to depots.
A maximum penalty of $30,000 can apply to persons who seek refunds on beverage containers sold outside of South Australia. Penalties also apply to persons providing false information on the declaration forms.
Do I have to sort my containers before taking them to a depot?
No. There is no obligation for you to sort containers before taking them to a collection depot, although there may be some benefits if you do .
Sorting and counting your containers into the various material types such as the different plastics, glass, aluminium and cartons and making a written note of the number of each container type may save time at the depot.
Do I need to remove the lids from containers before taking them to the collection depot?
There is no legal requirement to remove the tops/lids from beverage containers before taking them to a collection depot, but it helps If you do because:
- plastic tops are usually a different plastic than the bottle, separating the plastics is better for recycling
- leaving tops on containers can cause problems with transport and storage.
- you can put your tops with similar plastics in a separate container and ask your depot if they will accept these when you return your containers for refund.
- removing the tops/lids from containers may save time at the depot.
Will depots accept crushed or flattened cans or containers with missing labels?
Collection depots are not obliged to accept containers that do not have a refund statement clearly visible.
Although squashing and flattening cans makes it easier to collect and store, it does cause problems at depots as operators are unable to determine whether the containers are approved, have refund markings and/or whether they have been sold in SA or in another state.
Can a collection depot refuse to accept my containers?
Yes. There are several reasons why a collection depot operator may refuse to accept your containers:
- they are unclean or contaminated (ie containing paint, needles, etc),
- the refund marking is illegible or not visible,
- the depot operator believe that the containers were not sold in SA and may have been purchased interstate, or
- if a person refuses to complete a declaration when asked to do so by the depot.
I want to sell beverage containers in South Australia. What do I need to do?
Before the EPA can consider your application, a waste management arrangement (WMA) must be established to guarantee the payment of refunds to consumers and the aggregation of empty containers for recycling.
A one-off fee applies for the EPA to assess and process your application. Please refer to the guidelines and application forms for more detailed information on applying for approval.
What is the correct refund statement that must appear on beverage containers?
In South Australia, one of the following 3 approved refund statements must be displayed on the beverage container (a sticker may be used for imported beverages):
‘10c refund at collection depots when sold in SA’
‘10c refund at SA/NT collection depots in State/Territory of purchase’
'10c refund at collection depots/points in participating State/Territory of purchase'
I would like to open a collection depot, what do I need to do?
Collection depots must be approved by the EPA which will consider what arrangement is in place to ensure consumers are paid the full refund amount and the containers are collected for recycling. You should also obtain the required development approval before applying for approval to the EPA to operate as a collection depot.
Most depots in South Australia have contractual arrangements with the super collectors which collect the 10c deposit from the beverage companies. You will find more information about the super collectors in the Guidelines for approval of collection depots.
A one-off fee applies for the EPA to assess and process your application. Please refer the application form.
If I give beverages away (such as promotional drinks in bottles), do they need to comply with container deposit legislation?
Yes. Regardless of the quantity of beverages you supply, or whether you want to give them away as samples or distribute them for promotional purposes, your beverages must be approved by the EPA and display the refund marking. A waste management arrangement (WMA) must be in place so the refund is available and the containers are collected for recycling.
The definition of 'sell' in the Environment Protection Act 1993 includes:
(a) supply on a gratuitous basis for commercial promotional purposes; and
(b) offer or display for sale or such supply.
Please refer to the guidelines and application forms.
What do the numbers in the triangle mean on the bottom of plastic containers?
The numbers are a coding system developed and used by the plastic and recycling industries to identify the type of plastic the item is made from. It is not a recycling symbol.
Do container deposit schemes work with kerbside recycling schemes?
Yes, they work perfectly together. South Australia has the best of both worlds with an excellent kerbside recycling infrastructure and a world class container deposit scheme that achieves particularly high return rates.
Kerbside recycling is an excellent way to recover a wide range of household packaging. However, kerbside collections only capture containers for beverages that are consumed at home. They do not capture containers for beverages that are consumed away from home, which may be littered on beaches, highways and parks or disposed of in waste bins and ultimately landfilled. Container deposits are effective because of the financial incentive for the person that picks up the discarded container and returns it for the refund.
Having a container deposit scheme in place also benefits the kerbside collection scheme. Each year millions of glass bottles are returned to depots for a refund. With less glass bottles in the kerbside collection, contamination of other recyclables from broken glass is greatly reduced so compaction rates on trucks can be increased, allowing for more material to be collected with smaller vehicles making less trips.
What happens to beverage containers that I put in my yellow kerbside recycling bin?
Kerbside recyclables are taken to a materials recovery facility (MRF) for sorting.
Beverage containers that have a 10-cent refund are separated from other materials at the MRF so the refund can be collected and then they are recycled.
Is there any proof that container deposit legislation reduces litter?
According to the Keep South Australia Beautiful (KESAB) CDL Containers and Plastic Shopping Bags in the Litter Stream Report 2018–2019, beverage container litter currently represents only 2.8% of litter items in South Australia.
Clearly, container deposit legislation is highly successful in reducing beverage container litter.
What benefits can be attributed to container deposit?
Key benefits of container deposit scheme in Australia include:
- High recycling rates – In 2022–23, South Australia had a return rate of 76%, with over 660 million beverage containers returned to collection depots for refund and recycling. In jurisdictions that rely solely on recycling bins and kerbside collection, the actual recycling rate is much lower as many beverage containers become contaminated with other waste and cannot be recovered or recycled.
- High recyclate value – the beverage containers recovered in South Australia for recycling are of a much higher recycling grade than interstate containers. The sorting of containers into material types means less contamination and a higher value for the product.
- High resource recovery – rather than rely on new resources for production of beverage containers, the recovery and recycling of containers conserves resources and reduces pollution and energy consumption
- Reduced waste to landfill – the recovery of beverage containers through the container deposit scheme (in 2022–23 over 660 million bottles and cans) means that there is much less waste sent to landfill.
How many beverage containers are returned and recycled in South Australia?
The return rate for 2022–23 was 76%. Over 660 million containers (38,101 tonnes) were recovered by collection depots for recycling, resulting in beverage containers making up only 2.8% of litter in SA.