Container collection

Figure 1 A machine to collect used containers in Norway. Photo source: Elin Høyland/The Guardian

Container deposit schemes (CDS) exist in various places around the world in different forms. The highest reported rate of container recycling through such a scheme is 97%.[1] Alongside its exceptionally high return rate, Norway’s CDS boasts a very high standard of materials, with 92% of bottles able to be recycled into another drink bottle.

What are the features of this scheme that make it so effective?

  • A tax system that rewards high rates of collection: The government places an environmental tax on all producers of plastic bottles. The higher the rates of the recycling, the more that tax is reduced. If producers collectively recycle more than 95%, they do not have to pay the tax. This has been achieved every year since 2011, highlighting that such a system works.
  • A level playing field that drives collaboration: As the tax implications are shared among all products, collectively producers want high rates and high quality of recycling. Producers of bottles are better to unite and be part of one highly effective system than have fragmented approaches. More than 99% of producers of plastic bottles are part of the main scheme in Norway. They have also standardised materials to enable high rates of recycling, with producers having to use approved labels, bottle tops and glue.
  • An obligation to collect: Every store that sells bottles is obliged to also collect them for the scheme. The flexible format of collection means that larger and smaller stores can take different approaches. Bigger stores tend to use reverse vending machines that scan, crush and pack the bottles ready for collection. Smaller stores tend to collect bottles manually over the counter. The stores benefit from a small fee per return, as well as increased footfall.
  • An easy to use and accessible system for customers: People pay a small deposit for a bottle, depending on its size, and can return it to a machine or over the counter where they bought it for a coupon or cash. There are many thousands of sites people where can return their bottles.

Any CDS for Aotearoa New Zealand should consider Norway’s CDS as a model scheme and aim to match this international best practice recovery rate.

Explore more case studies from Rethinking Plastics

Sustainability through connection, learning and action

With a kaupapa of creating a healthy, peaceful, more sustainable world, Toimata Foundation supports inter-generational learning and action by running two main programmes in schools and communities:…

Reducing the carbon footprint of plastics by using recycled plastic

In a study of the carbon footprint of projected global plastic use between 2015 and 2050, Zheng and Suh modelled a theoretical situation of 100% recycling of plastic in 2050, and found it had a 25%…

A reusable system to replace single-use cups

Globelet offers a reusable cup system for festivals and other events. The cups are made from recycled polypropylene (#5) and manufactured onshore. Globelet provides the following statistics on their…

How big is the plastic clothing problem for Aotearoa New Zealand?

Some plastic articles of clothing are captured in the ‘Plastics and articles thereof’ harmonised trade codes in import data from Statistics NZ, but this does not account for all synthetic fibres im…

A business enabling people to rethink their use of plastic

Ecostore is an exemplar of how a business can take transformative action to rethink how we use plastics and inspire system-wide change. To enable people to reduce their use of non-renewable single-…

New Zealand Post’s quest for an alternative to plastic

The driver: New Zealand Post wants a more sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to their existing plastic mailers (e.g. courier bags, pre-paid postage bags). New Zealand Post has also…

Para Kore – helping people reduce their waste

Para Kore is a Māori organisation that provides mentoring and support for marae, kōhanga reo, kura, community organisations, iwi, tertiary, commercial sector, events and Māori communities to reduce…

Plastic Bag Free Raglan, Pēke Kirihou Kore Whāingaroa

In October 2018, Whāingaroa Raglan won the Keep New Zealand Beautiful ‘Community Environmental Initiative Award’. The kōrero behind the Award was a story of what happened when a whole community wor…

Controlled plastic decomposition

Plastics are made by joining monomers together to form long flexible chains in a process known as polymerisation. The strength of the bonds formed between monomers is what makes the plastics persis…

Recyclable shoes

As part of its recent pledge to use only recycled plastics by 2024, Adidas revealed a new sneaker made from 100% recyclable materials. Driven by a connection to environmental organisation Parley for…