40 years of cash refunds for drink containers in South Australia – 1977 – 2017
Australia’s container deposit scheme keeps our state free from unsightly beverage litter. Many people who visit South Australia comment on our clean streets, parks, beaches and river systems.
South Australia introduced its container deposit legislation (CDL) in 1977, which to this day continues to be a highly successful environmental program aimed at litter reduction and resource recovery.
The container deposit scheme is one of the first pieces of environmental legislation to focus on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, meaning that if someone discards an empty container they forfeit the right to the refund and someone else would benefit by picking it up and collecting that refund.
It is also one of the first pieces of ‘product stewardship’ legislation in which industry is obliged to take greater responsibility for its packaging after it has been sold. In the case of CDL, beverage suppliers must ensure that a system is in place for the recovery and recycling of their empty beverage containers
South Australia leads the nation in the recovery, recycling and litter reduction of beverage containers with a current, overall return rate of 76.5%. With the refund scheme, beverage containers make up only 2.2% of litter.
In 2015–16, more than 582 million containers (43,165 tonnes) were recovered by collection depots for recycling. This means that $58 million was refunded to the community during that period.
The container deposit scheme also provides a financial benefit to community groups, sporting clubs and charities that collect empty containers for refund.