Container deposit schemes show a new way to fundraise

Dog with Mount Franklin water bottle in mouth
Even our four-legged friends are doing their bit to help reduce plastic waste (Image Credit: Exchange for Change/Companion Dog Club.)

Container deposit schemes in NSW and ACT have become a way for charities and community groups to fundraise, utilising the 10c refund given for each bottle, can or carton taken to a return point.

In NSW alone, nearly $11 million has already been raised through formal partnerships with the Return and Earn container deposit scheme since it launched in December 2017.

Last year, as COVID-19 restrictions put fundraising events on hold for many charities and community groups, Return and Earn became a lifeline. Groups that used to rely on community events such as market stalls or Bunnings sausage sizzles needed to find other revenue streams.

One example of this is the Northern Beaches Women’s Shelter (NBWS), which not only struggled to fundraise, but saw an increased demand for assistance during COVID restrictions. The charity partnered with Return and Earn and TOMRA Cleanaway to be featured on Reverse Vending Machines.

When customers deposit their containers at RVM, they can chose whether to receive their refund, or donate it to a featured charity. In this way, the NBWS was able to maintain an income stream.

As well as formal fundraising partnerships, countless organisations have made collecting bottles and cans a mainstay of their fundraising.

Students at Warilla Public School, near Wollongong, led an initiative to raise money for solar panels, which will soon allow the school to become entirely self-sufficient for power. Living by the coast, the students were acutely aware of the impact of plastic pollution on oceans and sea life, so they wanted to reduce litter as well as making their school more sustainable.

Students set up recycling bins, and established a volunteer ‘Sortin’ Squad’ to separate the containers. They also took responsibility for making sure drink bottles and cans from the cafeteria – 8,000 per semester – were all collected.

Through the 10c refunds per container, the students raised $2,500 towards the initial 50 solar panels. These panels were installed at the beginning of 2019, and immediately halved the school’s power bills, saving tens of thousands of dollars annually. Fundraising continues, with the final 50 solar panels due to be installed imminently. The savings on electricity go back into the school to support learning and development.

In ACT as well, a number charities have used the container deposit scheme for fundraising. At the National Zoo and Aquarium, volunteers operate a network of container collections to raise money for a different animal charity each month. The Companion Dog Club in Symonston trains dogs to be good K9 citizens free of charge, and raises money for upkeep of the grounds through the CDS.

In Gunghalin, the Country Women’s Association has donated thousands of dollars to local charities with funds raised through container returns.

The Gordon Community Centre has also just begun fundraising through ACT scheme. Volunteer Michael West says: “It’s a fantastic fundraising opportunity as it helps the environment as well as engaging the community in making a contribution. Everyone can get involved, even kids, and families who struggle themselves, can bring containers along.”

To support charities, schools and community groups like the above, both the NSW and ACT schemes have launched toolkits – a set of digital assets and guidance for groups on how to get the best results from using container returns for fundraising.

The NSW toolkit can be found on this page: https://returnandearn.org.au/fundraising/  

The ACT toolkit is here: https://actcds.com.au/community-fundraising/

Find out more for Exchange for Change: https://www.exchangeforchange.com.au/

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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