The NSW Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has updated their retailer obligations for the Container Deposit Scheme.

The Director of CDS Policy & Compliance has recently written to clarify retailer obligations under the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2001, to advise some ways retailers can comply with these obligations, and to explain the Department’s compliance approach following 1 December 2019 when these obligations take effect.

Retailers are obliged to ensure eligible containers have the refund mark

By 1 December 2019 – two years after the launch of the Return and Earn scheme – all eligible drink containers sold in NSW will be required to have a refund mark stating:
“10c refund at collection depots/points in participating State/Territory of purchase”
Suppliers (including retailers) who sell containers that do not show the refund marking in accordance with the regulations may face minimum fines of $1,500 for individuals and $3,000 for companies.

Refund marking helps to reduce litter in NSW

The refund mark is vital for educating consumers and ensuring clarity around which containers are eligible, which is a key way to maximise redemption of containers and increase participation in the scheme. While an impressive 89 per cent of adults in NSW have heard of the program and 55 per cent have participated, clear labelling of eligible containers is a powerful way to maintain and grow this participation.

Retailers are working hard to comply

The Department recognises the efforts of retailers who have already achieved this for 100 percent of the drinks they sell in eligible containers. The Department is aware that retailers are working hard to be compliant by the deadline.

The Department acknowledges that some retailers are concerned that they may have non-complaint stock that will not be sold before 1 December 2019.

Retailers can take action

If retailers hold stock that does not have the refund mark, then stick-on labels can be used to make the stock compliant. Suppliers may also consider printing the information on the containers in the same way the use-by date is added, or selling those drinks interstate in places where the refund mark is not required.

Refund marking on all containers by 1 December

The Department’s objective is for retailers to be compliant and for all containers to have the refund mark. This is why the Department has been reaching out and reminding suppliers and retailers about the upcoming requirements. The Department’s key focus is on engagement and education and these actions will continue after the 1 December deadline.

Fair and considered approach to compliance

Once the requirement takes effect, the Department is committed to taking a fair and considered approach to regulation and will consider all circumstances when deciding on the most appropriate compliance action. There is no ‘ one-size-fits-all’ response to non-compliance and penalties are not the only tool or necessarily the first tool to enforce compliance. In each case, the approach taken will depend on the context and specific circumstances of the incidence. For example, the Department will look at whether the retailer has taken steps to prepare for the new requirements and has made a genuine effort to comply. If a retailer is found to be non-compliant, then the scale of the non-compliance and the willingness of the business to remedy the failure would also be considered. Those that are unresponsive or choose not to take steps to comply are more likely to face stronger enforcement action.

Additional obligations for container approval holders

Please note, two additional obligations will also take effect on 1 December 2019 regarding compliant barcodes and the use of prohibited metal can lids. These obligations only apply to the Container Approval Holder and do not affect retailers who are not the Container Approval Holder. Retailers are not required to ensure that their stock is compliant with these requirements and cannot be penalised if they hold stock that is not compliant. The only requirement that is relevant for retailers is the refund mark requirement.

Contact us

Should you have any questions about any of this information, the Department can be contacted at container.approval@epa.nsw.gov.au or by phone 131 555.

You can also contact our Policy Team on 1800 RETAIL (738 245).