What the issue is

We drink from over two billion glass, plastic, metal, paperboard and other single-use drink containers each year in Aotearoa New Zealand.

It is estimated that over half these empty beverage containers end up in landfills and unused stockpiles or littering streets, public spaces, streams, beaches and the ocean.

About container return schemes

Container return schemes encourage consumers and businesses to return beverage containers (eg, bottles, cans etc) for recycling and/or re-use. They do this by including a refundable deposit (eg, 20-cents or more) in the price of purchase.

Consumers get their deposit refunded when they return their empty beverage container(s) to a designated scheme drop-off point for recycling.

International schemes provide deposits ranging from 7 to 49 cents per container.

Container return schemes help to increase recycling rates, reduce litter, and reduce emissions by decreasing the need for virgin packaging production. There are over 50 schemes operating or in the process of being established globally including in Australia, Canada, the USA and Europe. However, individual scheme design and outcomes can vary considerably. 

Overseas evidence suggests that once implemented, container return schemes can reduce beverage container litter by 60 per cent or more.

This is noted on the following websites:

Container return scheme co-design project

Reflecting the growth in container return schemes internationally, a Government-funded New Zealand container return scheme investigation and co-design process was undertaken in 2020.

It was co-led by Auckland Council and Marlborough District Council. This project involved a wide range of industry, local government, community and sector stakeholders. The Ministry was also supported by an independent technical advisory group.

The co-design project undertook substantial research, modelling and reporting. This was supported by independently peer-reviewed cost-benefit analysis.

The co-design project recommended a number of design options for a container return scheme for Aotearoa New Zealand, in accordance with the project’s terms of reference. This body of work is substantial and thorough. However, there were differing stakeholder views on some key matters. 

Find out more about the co-design project [Marlborough District Council website].

A range of reports were developed and submitted to the Ministry at the end of 2020 [Marlborough District Council website]

Read the report [PDF, 15 MB] from the CRS Technical Advisory Group which provided final advice and independent feedback on the co-design report and recommendations for a design of a CRS. 

The Ministry’s work following the co-design project

Building on the work produced through the co-design project, the Ministry undertook further analysis and engagement with stakeholders during 2021 to develop comprehensive advice and options for Ministers.

The following issues and options were considered.

  • The scope of containers included within a scheme (eg, glass, plastic, metal, liquid paper board).
  • The deposit level.
  • The network design for returns.
  • How the scheme could work (including governance structure, financial model, etc).

About public consultation on a NZ CRS

We consulted on a container return scheme for Aotearoa New Zealand as part of the Transforming Recycling consultation, which ran from 13 March to 22 May 2022. The NZ CRS was one of three proposals we consulted on.

For full details of the NZ CRS proposal and the options we have considered:

Additional analysis and supporting material

Cabinet papers and policy documents