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Containers for Change

Home > Brisbane > Environment | Home Improvement
by T. A. Rose (subscribe)
Living in Brisbane Australia, I freelance write to express myself and discover new interests include photography, reviewing and editing.
Published September 7th 2020
Recycling containers in Brisbane explained
Containers for Change is a recycling scheme that runs in Queensland and has many collection options in the Greater Brisbane area. An impressive thing about the scheme is that customers will eventually be paid for bagging the bottles and dropping them off, and having experienced this, I thought it was a great idea to share how that happens. Containers for Change can be a lot of things and over the years, I have tried to work out ways to recycle my bottles with minimum mess and risk but with maximum convenience. I was ever-so-slightly incensed by the old depot at Red Hill, because there was a smell of alcohol/rotten liquids about the place, and just the busyness of the place left me wondering if it was a bit unhealthy to be there and stack my bottles up when there were other ways to achieve the aim of a donation or a payout equal to ten cents per container.

So for those who had found the scheme a bit frustrating, I am outlining some facts I discovered about it. As an alternative to a depot, I could drop bags full of containers off at certain drop-off places, such as a Salvos shop, and I often had to wait a long time to see anything tangible. But, at such a low cost, it wasn't all that painful, but what's frustrating is that you go to the trouble of dropping bags off or as stated before, to turn up at a depot and then you have to wait a long time to see your pay/donation appear. That uncertainty has defeated my enthusiasm for collecting or saving the containers. Fortunately though, for the environment, I can easily recycle all recyclables (without pay) in my local council's designated recycling bins and I was naturally not a big consumer of soft drinks on-the-go, so that means I perhaps have little to lose by not participating.

bags recycling piled
Bagging bottles is a good use of old shopping bags and makes a drop-off possible. photographed 07-09-2020.

bags recycling piled
Putting smaller bags into one big bag makes some drop-offs so easy (and easy for the recyclers), photographed 07-09-2020.

A few months ago, I took a customer satisfaction survey about the matter and left some compliments to the survey-master along the lines of what a great idea it is to get market research on the issue. Yet I wouldn't have been so enthusiastic about that survey if I didn't believe in the potential of the scheme itself. I think it's great for young people to recycle their containers with their parents and for young collectors and older collectors alike. Some enterprising types put adverts on local classifieds (such as Gumtree) to collect containers from houses, which I think is ultimately a good thing, because a lot of people who want to participate in the scheme, but don't have time or inclination to. It can, however, benefit lower-income earners - one man I met wanted to use my containers to pay for money for his family, yes he quoted 'my family' in his request.

Containers for Change has several different forms which allow for drop-offs. The depots are sometimes charity run or commercially run, though interesting recycling organisations participate as well. One brand called Envirobank, however, which appears frequently on the Containers for Change map, wanted me to pick up special scannable bags but the collection point for those bags was mind-bogglingly far from the allocated drop-off point for the containers themselves and the associated bus/rail ticket or petrol cost is more than my usage in containers, so that was quite disappointing. A better option was at the Salvos Stores, where I could key in my Containers for Change scheme ID into a sticker printing machine, and that would get me stickers with my scheme ID on them and I could stick them to a tied up or sealed bag and leave the bags in a designated bin or with a retail assistant at the store, and I can happily say, although I had to wait for long processing times, I got paid every time or without fail. Evidently, it's an interesting point that as frustrating as it is to see my work go unrewarded, those experiences led me to believe I would eventually get paid.

The commercial recyclers have these vending machines that people queue up for, yet at the same place(s) just let me make a big bag and drop off with the centre's staff, sign on a piece of paper what my Containers for Change scheme ID is and they do the rest, that, pleasingly, resulted in a fast payout, within two working days on many occasions. They had a centre at West End, and that brand was called Tomra. Another option is Return-it, which is highly recommended by the Containers for Change scheme call-centre staff, and they have many options throughout the suburbs. There is also remote mobile or portable schemes operating in more remote parts of the state operating the scheme where it is harder to recycle.

There are a few additional points worthy of mention. I've linked the scheme's FAQ page as it is an ideal starting point for those wanting further information. I can also rate the Containers for Change Mobile App which was briefly on my smartphone but is now off due to not being used much. It didn't have many extra features and was a bit disappointing, just was one of those apps that is a copy of the website in a lot of ways. I had the app on my phone this year prior to its deletion. For the time-efficient, a good strategy is to throw the big bottles in your council bin and save the fruit juice containers, soft drink cans and smaller containers up for one big scheme drop-off, as you get better value.

Throughout the pandemic, the website is being very supportive and encouraging people to recycle. The pages are slowly improving now with a feature that helps scan a container's barcode on the how-it-works-page. I gave this a good test, and on a soda water bottle it was eligible, yet I knew UHT plain milk packages weren't, so the search facility told me my barcode wasn't an eligible one. To really show the value of this search facility,I keyed in for Diet-Rite cordial and got a not eligible response, which was something I was a bit uncertain on, so it's fantastic to save my time and effort there. The scheme indeed is on the right track to improving based on that experience. Schemes that are designed to help Australia's environment are a good thing and I like the Containers for Change scheme and it gives me great pleasure to help interested readers avoid some of the frustrations I experienced from this positive yet new experience for some Australian states. I see the initial or teething problems that the scheme is going through, yet still support the initiative - it will be interesting to see how the scheme changes in the upcoming year, if indeed it changes at all.

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by Gillian Ching on 05/01/2019
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