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Container Deposit Scheme at last

On Wednesday 1 November, a Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) started in Victoria. 10c can be redeemed for every eligible container.

The CDS could not come soon enough for Ross and Ramona Headifen and the many people who had campaigned for a CDS for over a decade.

Ramona and Ross Headifen – consistent, persistent, inspiring advocates for a CDS – at First Point Beach in 2016

Ross and Ramona convene Port Melbourne’s 3207 Beach Patrol, one of a network of volunteer Beach Patrol groups picking up litter off beaches around Port Phillip Bay. Beach Patrol volunteers gather on the first Saturday of each month to pick up litter.

3207 Beach Patrol is complemented by Love Our Street 3207 which picks up litter form Port Melbourne’s streets on the third Saturday of each month. (LoS 3207 pick up more litter than 3207 Beach Patrol but attracts fewer volunteers.)

For many years, the government insisted that plastic litter was not a significant issue in Port Phillip Bay and that there was no evidence to substantiate it was a problem. This stubborn assertion was contradicted by Beach Patrol’s monthly experience. But if evidence was required, Beach Patrol was well placed to provide it. Experienced in research methods and data collection, Ross Headifen has ensured that data has been meticulously and soundly gathered.

At the end of each month’s clean, the various litter streams are separated and counted and entered into the Litter Stopper app.

They built the case, month by month, year on year.

Patterns have emerged: hot weather and litter go together like hand in glove. Heavy rain in the catchment means litter on our beaches.

courtesy of 3207 Beach Patrol

If Port Places has a home, it’s where the River meets the Bay under the Westgate Bridge.

It’s the last port of call for plastic litter from the combined Yarra and Maribyrnong catchments before it makes its way into the Bay. Plastic bottles lodge in the gaps in the rock revetement. It’s a showcase for plastic detritus.

Plastic bottles collected at Westgate Punt landing

Victoria has had the benefit of learning from the roll out on a CDS in New South Wales. The NSW CDS was introduced in 2017 by Liberal Premier Mike Baird and environment minister Rob Stokes after making it an election pledge in 2015. Once NSW had introduced the scheme, the pressure was on the other large states to follow.

Some headlines from the NSW Return and Earn Annual Report 2021 – 20221:

  • more than $35 million returned to charities and community groups since scheme commencement via donations and fees from hosting return points
  • $694 million in refunds paid to consumers via return point network since the scheme began (excluding GST)**
  • 159,500 tonnes of materials re-used or recycled in 2021 – 2022

It’s a win win win.

Beach Patrol’s ongoing and thorough data collection over so many years means it is well placed to monitor the effectiveness of the CDS.

Their monthly beach clean is tomorrow, November 4th at 9.00am when they will begin charting the impact of the CDS.

While there have been many factors playing into Victoria’s adoption of a CDS, there is no doubt that the persistent advocacy of community groups and Beach Patrol’s without peer data collection have played a role.

1 November 2023 marked not so much a starting point, as a turning point. Our beaches will never be the same – for the better.

The CDS gives options. You can choose the 10c refund for yourself, or nominate your bank account, or you can nominate a preferred charity.

Since 3207 Beach Patrol and the Yarra Riverkeeper Association both work towards the health of the River and the Bay, it would be great if you could nominate either of them as your preferred recipient. All this can be done on the CDS East app.

There is a Reverse Vending Machine in the Woolworths Fishermans Bend carpark. This machine can accept up to 499 containers. Return-it is the operator in Port Phillip. The app is CDS East.

These early users had been saving up their aluminum cans. Although the rollout has been slow, there is no turning back.

CDS Victoria’s website explains how the scheme works.

1Return and Earn Annual Statutory Report 2021-2022


  • Nick Aagren

    Great to see the CDS in VIC finally up and running. Some of the things I have experienced are; The RVM at Woollies has been out of commission several times since Nov 1st, often all day, including all last Saturday ad Sunday. I happened to meet the technician there this morning who explained that the sensors that do the sorting and barcode ID ( there are many) can be disrupted by among other things, those who clean inside the RVM as well as the collectors who empty it. He said they are all learning how to keep them up and running and some problems can be fixed remotely. This closure meant that possibly the next nearest collection point Albert Park IGA also stopped taking collections when their bins were filled before the end of the weekend and would not resume collection until their bins were emptied sometime Monday afternoon. I rang the next nearest collection point, BP Prahran, this morning and they had also stopped taking collections until their bins were emptied. It appears that the RVM's aren't serviced on weekends nor are the bins emptied at OTC collection points on the weekend which may be the time when most returns occur and when the system really needs to be kept up and running. The absence of weekend service will be cost related. The RVM rejects any cans and plastic bottles that it can't read their barcodes. This applies to any badly crushed cans or plastics that the barcode wrapper has washed off. The solution to this is to take them to OTC collection points such as IGA where they aren't concerned with barcodes. At the IGA it helps them if you already have a count of your various items so you can just tip them into the collection bins rather than count them in one by one. I must say the staff there are friendly and helpful dealing with the new scheme. The number of people I've seen turning up with bags of recycleables is very impressive. I'm sure the CDS will be a great success in VIC.

    • Thank you Nick for that very thorough advice about the state of play with the CDS and how to participate even if the RVM aren't working.

  • Nick Aagren

    Another thing I found out yesterday at the RVM is that the info about downloading the app and getting the barcode is irrelevant. If the machine is working, just start feeding your items in and at the end press the donation or receipt icon and the paper receipt prints. There's no need to scan a barcode. That's pretty simple so I don't know why all the app/barcode info is displayed on the machine? The barcode is only applicable at OTC points.

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