How does the Container Deposit System work in SA?

South Australia’s container deposit legislation is contained within Part 8 Division 2 of the Environment Protection Act 1993.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is the regulator of the scheme and ensures that the refund is made available for the person returning the empty container to the collection depot and that the empty containers are collected for recycling or reuse.

The collection and recycling process has been established by companies called ‘super collectors’, which enter into contractual arrangements with both collection depots and beverage suppliers. The beverage suppliers must ensure that they have an effective waste management arrangement for the return and recovery of their containers sold in SA and they must ensure that their containers are recyclable.

The process ensures consumers are refunded the deposit and depots are paid for the collection and sorting service. The financial incentive provided by the ability to get a refund ensures the empty beverage containers are collected for recycling rather than littered or sent to landfill.

Our historical leadership in container recycling

South Australia has led the way in Australia in container recycling for over 40 years.


Container deposit legislation was first introduced in SA in 1977 as a litter control measure and is now also used to support resource recovery and recycling. The Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) was introduced to address significant volumes of beverage containers in the litter stream and broadly coincided with the introduction of non-refillable beverage containers such as cans and then later, plastic soft drink bottles. Prior to this, refillable glass bottles for beer and soft drinks were collected via voluntary schemes established by the manufacturers of those beverages.


In 2003 the scope of containers covered by the CDS was expanded to include additional beverage containers such as flavoured milk, juice and waters prevalent in the litter stream at the time.


In 2008 the deposit amount was increased from 5 cents to 10 cents. South Australia’s CDS continues to be a highly successful environmental program aimed at litter reduction and resource recovery.


The CDS return rate reached an all time high of 81% of all valid containers.


In 2017–18, almost 603 million containers were recovered by collection depots for recycling, representing a return rate of almost 77% and diverting about 42,913 tonnes from landfill or litter in that year. 

This consultation

There is an opportunity to build on this success and improve the management of the CDS and the effectiveness of the scheme to promote litter reduction and resource recovery. The government are therefore keen to hear from everyone involved in the scheme, from the manufacturers of beverage containers, to the person returning their empty containers to the local recycling depot, about their ideas to make the CDS work even better.

We are inviting your thoughts on what issues should be the focus of the CDS review.


Read the Improving South Australia's Recycling Makes Cents scoping paper(Opens in a new window).



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