Commencement of expanded Queensland Container Refund Scheme

From 1 November 2023, the Queensland Container Refund Scheme (“CRS”) will be expanded to include wine bottles.  Consumers in Queensland will be able to redeem their wine bottles for a 10-cent refund within Queensland, and ‘beverage manufacturers’ (defined by legislation as either the maker, importer or distributor of the packaged beverage) will need to pay the scheme price on their eligible containers from 1 November 2023. 

The scheme price for glass bottles in Queensland is currently 13.9 cents per container plus GST.

With this deadline fast approaching, Australian Grape & Wine, along with the state wine industry associations felt it necessary to advise members of what we know at this point in time.  It is important to note this information is point in time and is subject to change pending further advice from the Queensland government and COEX.

What do beverage manufacturers need to do and by when?
We have been advised by the scheme coordinator, COEX, that beverage manufacturers will need to do the following.

By 1 November 2023:

  1. Register their organisation as a Beverage Manufacturer with COEX
  2. Execute a Container Recovery Agreement (CRA) with COEX
  3. Register their eligible beverage products with COEX (each must have a barcode)

By 1 January 2027:

  1. Include a refund mark on the labels of containers

Key dates

7 Sept 2023COEX begins contacting beverage manufacturers new to the scheme, to explain the onboarding process
11 Sept 2023COEX hosting an on-line “Town Hall” style forum for any beverage manufacturers new to the scheme, to explain the onboarding process
15 Sept 2023COEX portal for accepting registration applications from beverage manufacturers new to the scheme scheduled to go live
1 Nov 2023All beverage manufacturers must be registered with COEX, have executed a Container Recovery Agreement (CRA) and have registered their eligible beverage products sold into Queensland with COEX
1 Jan 2027All eligible beverage products sold into Queensland must contain a refund mark

To lawfully sell wine into Queensland from 1 November 2023, beverage manufacturers must have:

  • A Container Recovery Agreement (“CRA”) in force
  • Registered their eligible beverage products with COEX
  • A barcode on their eligible beverage products

A 10-cent refund mark must also be displayed on labels of eligible beverage products from 1 January 2027.

Failure to comply may result in a maximum penalty of 500 penalty units[1], which is currently equivalent to $77,400.

COEX will start contacting potential new beverage manufacturers from 7 September 2023 to help begin the process of registration.  Registration is an online process via a custom-built portal, which is expected be live by 15 September 2023.

Once registered, COEX will review the application, request further documents if necessary, and then issue a CRA for review and execution. The CRA includes all the provisions relating to reporting sales volumes, invoicing and payments.
Once the CRA is signed, the portal can be used to register relevant beverage products.  

Registration in the Queensland container refund scheme is free, as is the registration of relevant products.

Refund mark
By 1 November 2027[2], all eligible beverage products sold in Queensland must have a refund mark and a barcode. The refund mark is a statement on the label of the container that identifies it as eligible for a 10-cent refund. COEX advises that “there are no prescribed words to be used, however the most common wording on products is:

  • 10c Refund at Collection Depots/Points in Participating State/Territory of Purchase”  

The marking or labelling must be of a colour and size that is clear and legible for the container.[3]

Barcode requirement
The legislation requires relevant beverage containers sold into Queensland to contain a barcode from 1 November 2023[4].  Australian Grape & Wine in conjunction with the state wine industry associations continue to lobby for the use of label recognition technology in the Queensland scheme, that would negate the need for barcodes to be added to containers.

Reporting and invoicing
Beverage manufacturers are required to submit the number of eligible beverage products they have sold into Queensland in the previous calendar month. This needs to be done by the 15th of each calendar month and via the COEX Business Partner Portal.

It is important to note that:

  • Beverage manufacturers that sell fewer than 100,000 units of eligible beverage products into Queensland will be required to report and pay annually, but have the option to report monthly or quarterly.
  • Beverage manufacturers that sell between 100,000 and 300,000 units annually will be required to report and pay quarterly, but also have the option to report and pay monthly.  
  • Those that sell more than 300,000 units annually will be required to report and pay monthly.

COEX has indicated that it will issue invoices on or around the 21st day of the month following the end of the relevant reporting period, and payment terms are five (5) days.

If you do not make any sales in a month, you must still log in and report ‘Nil’. If you fail to report at all, COEX will generate an invoice for that reporting period based on your historical sales.

Significant Concerns
The consultation process by the Department of Environment and Science (“DES” “the department” ) has been lacking to say the least.  We have persistently and doggedly engaged with them in an attempt to gain clarity on key basic issues such as who is required to do what and by when in order to be compliant with the new legislation.  Many things remain unclear, and many of our questions remain unanswered.

These timeframes are impossible to meet.  Even if manufacturers register for a CRA as soon as registrations open, COEX will simply not be able to onboard all new beverage manufacturers prior to the scheme commencement on 1 November 2023.

COEX has indicated that it will prioritise onboarding of new beverage manufacturers based on size – starting with the largest and working down to the smaller.  This puts the greatest risk of being non-compliant on to those who can afford it least – small and medium sized manufacturers.

Compliance and enforcement
Australian Grape & Wine in conjunction with the state wine industry associations continue to lobby the Queensland government for an amnesty period on compliance and enforcement activities until manufacturers have been given the opportunity to be onboarded by COEX, noting the unreasonable timeframe provided to comply.

The department has offered to provide written advice from the regulator acknowledging the transition, “best endeavours” by manufacturers to comply by the 1 November deadline, and that they will take an “education first” approach to compliance and enforcement.  That is cold comfort when the law provides for a penalty of up to $77,400 for non-compliance.  We expect to receive the written advice in the week commencing Monday 11th September 2023.

Who is liable to contribute to the scheme – “First sale”
COEX have provided this documentation to assist potential new eligible beverage manufacturers in determining who is the entity liable for contributions to the Queensland scheme.  Unlike in other jurisdictions, the Queensland scheme does not limit the definition of “beverage manufacturer” to the maker of the beverage product.  The legislation provides that the “beverage manufacturer” can be the person who makes the product (either themselves or contracts someone else to do so on their behalf), the importer or the retailer/distributor.[5]

According to COEX’s First sale guide, the “manufacturer is referred to as the person or entity who first sells a beverage product into Queensland to a consumer or to a distributor or retailer for on-selling to a consumer.”
Further, “The relevant point in the supply chain is the first movement within or into Queensland to the point where the product is intended to be used or consumed or on sold to a consumer.”

There is a table on page three of the COEX First sale guide that has various scenarios listed to provide advice as to the responsible entity. Unfortunately, these scenarios result in ambiguity and are open to interpretation.

Payment terms
Whilst we have not seen a sample “Container Recovery Agreement”, we are advised the payment terms following the reporting of sales into Queensland is five (5) days.  This is unacceptable and unworkable, and we continue to lobby the Queensland government for a change to this requirement.

COEX Town Hall information session
COEX held an online forum on Monday September 11, 2023 to assist beverage manufacturers new to the scheme with questions about the registration process.  Over 160 producers attended this webinar. We will provide members with further information as soon as we can.

Australian Grape & Wine and state wine associations will continue to advocate on your behalf and fight for changes to this scheme that we know will have a big negative impact on your business.

Further information:
COEX Scheme Expansion FAQs
COEX call centre: 13 42 42

[1] Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 (Qld) s.99P(1)

[2] Waste Reduction and Recycling Regulation 2023 (Qld) s.99P

[3] Waste Reduction and Recycling Regulation 2023 (Qld) s.31

[4] Waste Reduction and Recycling Regulation 2023 (Qld) s.99P(1)(c)(ii)

[5] Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2022 (Qld) s.99O(1)(a)-s.99O(1)(c)

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