What is a Container Return Scheme (CRS)?

New Zealanders use more than 2.23 billion beverage containers every year. This equates to 6.1 million containers each day or 1.36 containers per person per day. Under the current voluntary system only an estimated 30 – 35% of these containers are recycled1. As a result, over 830,000 cubic metres (by loose volume) of beverage containers are discarded into the litter stream and landfills annually.

Around the world, Container Return Schemes (CRS) are seen as the best way of helping to address this problem. In 2018, approximately 40 Container 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 CRS. 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 CRS 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, CRS 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.

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

  • Reduces litter and keeps plastic waste out of landfill, rivers, and oceans.
  • Boosts recycling, securing clean streams 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 – reducing the cost of collection and processing of 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 raise recycling rates.

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

  • The Convenience of Return Points
  • The Deposit Value

Achieving high participation and return rates depends on building and maintaining the most convenient network possible. This includes:

  • Return points are 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.
  • Return points that are open when you need them
  • Technology that’s fast, reliable, and easy to use.

This means that the highest performing CRS in the world adopt return-to-retail (RTR) models or hybrid schemes incorporating RTR.

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A guide to Clean Loop Recycling – Follow to learn more about TOMRA and how a CRS strengthens Clean Loop Recycling

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 piece of technology that accepts drink containers from users, identifies and sorts the container and provides the user 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.

Reverse vending machines provide an automated method for collecting, sorting, and handling the return of used beverage containers for recycling or reuse. During the 50 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 between 70% and 95%+of all eligible beverage containers sold.

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.

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 kept free of contamination.
  • Keeps the material fractions so clean that they can be recycled into new containers, thus closing the material loop, and avoiding downcycling.
  • Decreases transportation needs as the material is sorted and compacted on site, optimizing transportation capacity, and reducing transport movements.
  1. Convenient and engaging for users
  • Makes recycling convenient, as the RVMs are typically stationed inside or in the entrance of grocery retail stores.
  • Makes recycling easy 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.
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Reverse vending – Follow to learn more about TOMRA Reverse Vending Solutions.

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 placed unsustainable pressure on our natural ecosystems and resources.

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 collection, 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.

The Circular Economy is at the heart of what we do at TOMRA. With 50 years’ experience, TOMRA is a pioneer and innovation leader in the development of the technologically advanced collection, sorting, and recycling solutions.  Working with others in the sector we are bringing this experience to help shape future circular waste and resource systems.

One example of this approach is TOMRA’s Holistic Resource System, which uses a combination of established waste management practices for collecting, sorting, and recycling, to close the loop, cut global annual CO2 emissions, and reduce waste. In conjunction with this holistic resource system, our state-of-the-art reverse vending and sensor-based technology increases the precision recovery of materials, providing valuable insight into the composition of those materials and streamlining our recycling processes.

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 closed loop recycling 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 CRS 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 online and the % of recycled cullet used in new glass bottles is rising.

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.

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Circular Economy (tomra.com) – Follow to learn more about TOMRA and the Circular Economy