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15 February, 2022

Making the change

OVER 16.5 million recyclable drink cans and bottles have been refunded over the last year in the region, with Tablelanders embracing the evergrowing Containers for Change program.

By Ellie Fink

The initiative kicked off in Queensland in May 2019, providing 10 cents for each container brought into depots, with 31 million refunded on the Tablelands. 

Between 2020 and 2021, the scheme has seen an increase in containers by 13.1 per cent in Mareeba and Atherton, with an average of 45,210 containers being refunded a day. 

Mareeba’s “Cash for Cans” depot manager Stuart Hill said since he started working there a year ago, there had been a notable increase in the number of people bringing in containers, coming from near and far. 

“I have been here for a year and there’s definitely been a big increase, there’s up to 60 cars of containers coming in every day and more if it’s the holiday period,” he said. 

“A lot (of containers) get picked off the side of the road because of littering and people are making a living off it. “A lot of them are also from cattle stations out at Dimbulah and Chillagoe and (further), that come in once or twice a year to refund – they’re from out at cattle stations and they’re aware of us, so that means we are making a difference.” 

Mr Hill said that Containers for Change has also become a generational activity, with heaps of families coming into the depot together to recycle and claim cash back. Many children have taken on the challenge of collecting cans to make themselves some pocket money whilst learning the importance of recycling. 

As their depot continues to expand, the team have taken on new ideas to make their jobs and customers’ experiences quicker and more effective every day. This includes the introduction of new recyclable hessian bags and wheelie bins to organise and transport containers. 

“We get a lot of people come in with garbage bags and boxes and they think that we are a recycle facility where we will keep the plastic bags and cardboard boxes, but we don’t have the facilities to recycle them, so the new bags are convenient for us and for them,” Mr Hill said. 

“They can also use the bags to sort their containers, by putting cans in one bag, clear plastics in another bag and so on, it helps when they are separated and makes our job easier. 

“It’s also a way to stop people from going to the shops and buying plastics to hold the containers.” 

Containers for Change is also encouraging charities to come on board, allowing people to donate their spare change their worthy causes. Currently, the Mareeba depot has about six charities that people can donate to including, Cruisin’ for Craig and the Animal Rescue.


Most aluminium, glass, plastic, steel and liquid paperboard beverage containers between 150ml and 3L are eligible for a 10-cent refund. 

Eligible containers must display the refund mark (“10c refund at collection depots/points in participating State/Territory of purchase”) 


Generally excluded containers are those that are less than 150ml and greater than 3L. They include: 

  • Plain milk containers of all sizes including plant-based milk substitutes
  • Glass containers that contained wine or pure spirits 
  • Containers 1L or more that contained fl avoured milk, pure fruit or vegetable juice, cask wine or cask water 
  • Concentrated/undiluted cordial or syrup containers 
  • Sachets above 250ml that have contained wine 
  • Registered health tonics

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