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20oct container refund hero
Research report
6 October 2020

Majority support for container return scheme

Seven out of 10 Kiwis back container refund scheme to boost recycling.

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember when empty fizz bottles could be returned to the corner dairy to get a few cents refund. Those days may be coming back as part of efforts to boost recycling of the estimated two billion drink containers we go through each year.

A government-funded project to investigate setting up a container return scheme kicked off last year. Like days of old, you’d pay a bit extra when you made your purchase but get money back when you returned the empty container.

The majority of Kiwis back the idea. Our latest survey found 70 percent were in favour. Sixteen percent may come on board but had yet to make up their minds. Just 15 percent were outright opposed.

Take-back rates

Results are in line with findings from our previous research, which showed the majority of Kiwis rate recycling as very important (81 percent). Most would use a container return scheme if it was introduced (72 percent).

The likelihood of using a scheme was highest among consumers earning $25,000 to $50,000 a year: 81 percent said they were very likely to return containers to get a refund on the empty.

Refund amount

Results also suggest the refund amount wouldn’t need to be all that high to encourage people to return containers.

More than half (58 percent) thought up to 20¢ per bottle would be enough. A further 13 percent said they’d return containers for recycling, regardless of whether a refund was provided.

The majority said they preferred to get their refund in cash (40 percent) or by direct payment to their bank account (21 percent), rather than in the form of a voucher.

Making it work

For eight out of 10, convenient drop-off points were the most important factor to a take-back scheme’s success.

Sixty-seven percent said it also needed to be easy to understand which containers were covered, with most wanting the scheme to include all drink containers – glass, metal and plastic.

Supermarkets were picked by 70 percent as the most convenient place to return containers. Collection depots, such as existing recycling centres, were also favoured by 63 percent.

There was less support for other retail outlets, such as bottle stores, to be used as refund points: only 40 percent favoured these locations.

What’s happening now?

A report on the options for a container return scheme is expected to be completed in November.

To ensure consumer views are represented, we’ve been part of the working group that’s canvassed the options. If a scheme is signed off – and we think it should be – it’s expected to take a couple of years for it to get up and running.

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