As of 1 November, the Container Refund Scheme (CRS) commenced in Queensland. Similar to its southern counterparts, the scheme offers a refund of 10 cents for the return of selected glass, plastic and aluminium drink containers. Across Queensland, more than 230 sites will commence operation in November 2018, increasing to over 300 sites by November 2019. The scheme conception began with the passing of the Waste Reduction and Recycling Amendment Bill in September 2017, which resulted in Container Exchange being appointed the Product Responsibility Organisation (PRO), tasked with realising and implementing the scheme. The scheme “reflects not only the 10-cents that people will receive when they return an eligible container, but also the benefits that the scheme will deliver for Queensland’s environment, communities and charities”, Minister for Environment, Leeanne Enoch noted in the bill commencement hearing.
The scheme itself, particularly the nature of the collection, storing and transferring of containers, presents a complex planning issue, particularly within the Queensland context. Planning across the state is regulated by Local and State Governments through the direction of overarching legislation and policies, differing between each of the 77 local government areas in Queensland. In this, each specific site across the state was subject to review by up to 5 different government departments. Given the minor nature of the proposed activities to occur on the sites, a solution to the problem was to amended the overarching Planning legislation to permit exemptions to certain, low risk sites.
Engaged to provide planning advice for the establishment of the scheme, MacroPlan was tasked with undertaking an assessment over 600 proposed Container Refund Point (CRP) sites against the relevant policies, highlighting risk levels associated with each site. Through this process, the low risk sites were recommended to be made exempt of regulatory assessment to further the intent of the scheme. Determining the look and feel of the exemption required a multi-departmental involvement from the State Government, reviewing and including criteria to satisfy all involved parties. MacroPlan played a vital role in providing planning advice regarding the proposed exemption, reviewing each iteration of the proposed exemption, assessing and reporting the effects of the exemption on the proposed CRP sites. The last iteration of the amendments to the Planning Regulation came into effect on 19 October 2018, facilitating exemptions to approximately 65% of the total scheme sites.
Having the intricate knowledge of the exemptions, the MacroPlan team prepared a suite of the supporting material to be provided to the CRP operators and owners, detailing their planning and regulatory obligations, as well as, methods to navigate the exemptions outlined in the Planning Regulation. These documents have now over the last couple of weeks assisted the successful implementation of the CRS on 1 November.