What is a Container Return Scheme (CRS)?

New Zealanders produce approximately 150,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste each year, with Plastics NZ reporting that, per person, Kiwis consume approximately 31kg of plastic waste and only 5.5kg of this gets recycled. Too much of the remainder ends up in landfill or polluting waterways and oceans. Indeed, a separate report estimated that as much as 4,500 tonnes, or 800 shipping containers full of plastic, is emitted into New Zealand’s environment including freshwater and marine ecosystems.

Around the world, Container Return Schemes’ (CRS) are seen as the best way of helping to address this problem. In 2018, approximately 40 Deposit Refund Schemes served a combined population of around 290 million worldwide. By 2023 an additional 20 schemes will see over 500 million people living in a jurisdiction with a DRS. Two factors are driving this trend: the first is the problem of plastic waste, the second relates to the opportunities available in the transition to a circular economy.

A well-designed CDS has long been recognized as an effective and convenient way to boost community recycling rates, reduce litter and divert waste from landfill. However, alongside these traditional benefits, CDS is now understood as the best guarantee of clean streams of material that can be recycled many times at the same quality and value, or sometimes, as with glass, infinitely.

What drives a best practice and successful CRS? Two factors above all determine the effectiveness and popularity of a CRS:

  • The Deposit Value
  • Convenience of the Network

Compared to global jurisdictions even a 20-cent deposit would be of relatively low value relative to beverage prices; a 10-cent deposit would be among the lowest in the world.  Either way, achieving high return rates and high participation rates depends on building and maintaining the most convenient network possible.

  • Collection points co-located with retail, so recycling your containers and collecting your refund becomes part of your routine, not a separate trip to an industrial depot.
  • Collection points that are open when you need them
  • Technology that’s fast, reliable and easy to use.

This means that the highest performing CDS in the world adopt a return-to-retail (RTR) model or a hybrid scheme combining RTR with community-based depots.

Why introduce a Container Return Scheme? A well-designed CRS:

  • Reduces litter and keeps plastic waste out of landfill, rivers, and oceans.
  • Boost’s recycling, securing a clean stream of material for the jobs and industries of the circular economy
  • Engages charities and community groups in fundraising and social enterprise
  • Delivers new benefits and revenue for local government – reduces the cost of collection and processing of plastic containers for local government and ratepayers.
  • Changes behaviour by making it easy for consumers to reclaim the deposit they have paid on the containers, and avoiding it simply becoming a cost impost.

What is a Reverse Vending Machine (RVM)?

Today, consumers go through almost 1.4 trillion beverage containers every year, representing a vast amount of packaging material that can be collected and reused or recycled. Proper handling of used packaging conserves precious resources like energy, water and crude oil and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

What is a Reverse Vending Machine? It’s a marvellous piece of technology that takes drink containers from users and provides them with a refund. Used all over the world, they are the linchpin of container deposit schemes and are critical in capturing material for effective recycling.

TOMRA is the world leader in the field of reverse vending, with approximately 80,000 installations across more than 60 markets. From expert advice for reverse vending providers to engaging recycling experiences for end users, you can rely on TOMRA for the best reverse vending machines for collecting aluminium cans and glass and plastic bottles for recycling.

Users get an instant reward when returning used containers to TOMRA reverse vending machines, motivating repeated use and further raising collection rates. As reverse vending machines are often an integrated part of consumers’ routines, everyday recycling is made convenient, efficient, and profitable for all stakeholders.

Reverse vending machines provide an automated method for collecting, sorting and handling the return of used beverage containers for recycling or reuse. During the 45 years these systems have been utilized, they have proven to be an unmatched success for consumers, businesses and the environment. Reverse vending machines are the centrepiece of modern deposit systems that for years have demonstrated return rates from 70% to almost 100% of sold beverage containers. No other waste or collection system comes even close to matching these figures. Automated reverse vending machines for container deposit systems prove their business case with a very low cost per collected container.

  1. Better for Business
  • Offers a proven solution that keeps litter off the streets and reduces the need for other expensive waste programs.
  • Creates labour savings in stores by automating manual tasks.
  • Yields space and logistics savings as the material is compacted, reducing storage requirements in stores and on-board trucks.
  1. Better for the environment
  • Maximizes material value and maintains material properties, as the containers are sorted by material type.
  • Keeps the material fractions so clean they can even be recycled into new containers, thus closing the material loop and avoiding downgrading.
  • Decreases transportation needs as the material is sorted and compacted on site, optimizing transportation capacity and voiding transport movements.
  1. Convenient and engaging for users
  • Makes recycling easy, as the RVS typically is stationed inside or in the entrance of grocery retail stores.
  • Makes recycling convenient as it is fast and clean, and this motivates repeated use in combination with the instant reward.
  • Engages users even further when the owner capitalizes on possibilities to use the RVS as a tool for sales promotions, branding and CSR programs.

What is a Circular Economy?

Currently in New Zealand we are living in a linear economy, goods are manufactured, used, thrown away and raw materials bought in to make new goods. This take-make-dispose mind-set has created a linear economy.

Imagine a New Zealand where there is no concept of waste, where resources are kept in circulation for as long as possible, then fed back into the system through collecting, sorting, and recycling. We want to help create that world. That’s what the circular economy is all about. That’s what we are all about.

Essentially a circular economy is one where companies manage all resources as valuable assets. The lifecycle of products is maximised, utilisation optimised and at the end of life of a product all materials are fully reutilised. This is achieved by designing and optimising products for multiple cycles of disassembly and reuse, eliminating waste throughout various life cycles and uses of products and their components. A circular economy aims to moves away from a traditional linear ‘take-make-dispose” economy.

With 50 years’ experience in circular waste management, TOMRA is a pioneer and innovation leader in waste collection and management. The TOMRA Circular Economy Division (TCE) was formed to drive innovation forward, and accelerate the transformation to a circular economy, shaping future waste and resource systems.

The TOMRA Holistic Resource System uses a combination of waste management practices for collecting, sorting, and recycling. This system aims to close the loop, cut global annual CO2 emissions, and reduce waste. Our sensor-based technology increases precision and streamlines our recycling processes, and our state-of-the-art reverse vending and waste sorting solutions recover materials while providing valuable insight into the composition of those materials.

The TOMRA Holistic Resource System uses a combination of waste management practices for collecting, sorting, and recycling. This system aims to close the loop, cut global annual CO2 emissions, and reduce waste.

Our sensor-based technology increases precision and streamlines our recycling processes, and our state-of-the-art reverse vending and waste sorting solutions recover materials while providing valuable insight into the composition of those materials.

And that’s just the beginning. We are constantly exploring possibilities and cultivating new ways to get the most out of our systems, maximizing the value of resources and – most importantly – reducing waste.

We aim to take plastic waste management to a new level worldwide. By 2030:

  • 40% of all post-consumer plastic packaging will be collected for recycling
  • 30% of all post-consumer plastic packaging will be recycled in a closed loop

In addition to the myriad benefits a circular economy brings to the environment it also helps to stimulate new jobs in the Circular Economy, especially when underpinned by a best in breed Container Return Scheme (CRS).

A modern CRS is a vital piece of industry policy. By reducing contamination and cutting waste, a convenient and effective CRS guarantees much higher volumes of high-quality material for re-use and re-processing.

As the CDS revenue filters into the economy there is incentive for industry to invest in new plant, for example where plastic containers are currently sent overseas for re-processing there is now an economic argument for building that capability in New Zealand.

Advanced economies around the globe are putting a new focus on the benefits of the circular economy for sustainable jobs growth and if New Zealand moves to implement a CRS incorporating best-practice technology there is tremendous potential for downstream benefits, both through reprocessing the high-quality commodities for use in the local economy and upgrading it and exporting it for use elsewhere.

CRS provides the twin prerequisites for investment in reprocessing: high-quality pure material

streams and secure, high volumes of supply. As a result, in markets across the world – Germany, Sweden, Norway and most recently in NSW – the introduction of CRS has led directly to new investment in downstream RPET reprocessing plants. In Australia new glass beneficiation facilities are also coming on-line and the % of recycled cullet used in new glass bottles is set to rise.

In the same way, a modern, best-practice CRS will create new circular economy opportunities and industries, and a diverse range of skilled jobs in communities across New Zealand.

Learn More

To learn more about TOMRA and the Circular Economy go to https://www.tomra.com/en/circular-economy