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Container Deposit Systems came to SAGE with an idea to improve the recycling process with an innovative technology solution, requiring research, prototyping and development. 


Waste management and resource recovery


Research, prototyping, development, manufacture and ongoing support for automated redemption terminals and manual input stations for an innovative Australian recycling company.


Product development, proof-of-concept, rapid prototyping, minimum viable product, scalable manufacturing, 24/7 nationwide support and service, training material development, asset management.


Adelaide, South Australia

Brett Duncanson, Executive Chairman, Container Deposit Systems

“The solution makes the returns process quicker and easier for customers, provided probity of information between members of the returns scheme and it is a viable business opportunity for container depots, both existing and new – encouraging increases in Australia’s recycling rates.

Our ability to bring together research, digitisation, IoT and control systems means CDS is proudly designed and manufactured in Australia.”


Container Deposit Systems (CDS) is an Australian company offering a range of technology solutions to recycling depot facilities, helping to drive productivity improvements and transition traditional recycling facilities into modern, technically advanced operations.

With a vision to improve the recycling process and enable improved resource recovery, CDS saw an opportunity to increase the efficiency of container recycling through technology, enabling recycling facilities to improve the return process for customers.

Following extensive research of overseas automated recycling solutions, it was discovered these systems weren’t quite hitting the mark, as they could only scan containers with intact barcodes. This meant crushed and damaged containers, as well as those with no labels, couldn’t be refunded.

CDS came to SAGE with an idea to improve the recycling process with an innovative solution that avoided the challenges encountered with international designs and fully automated the return and refund processing of containers.

A partnered approach with industry experts saw the development of a solution that provides both a viable business opportunity for container deposits, and contributes to the circular economy:

  • Auto Return Terminals (ARTs) - to collect and sort the containers, providing a receipt for clients to claim back the refund.
  • Manual Input Station (MIS) - for depots to count the containers and process refunds electronically
  • Cash Redemption Terminal (CRT) - for processing refunds
  • Remote Access Panel (RAP) - to enable remote support and upgrades.


SAGE Automation collaborated with CDS, mechanical partner Macweld Industries, the University of South Australia and Nukon to design an Automatic Redemption Terminal (ART) which automates the sorting of containers to a high level of accuracy, while also providing a refund point for customers.

To provide an end-to-end solution for depots, a solution was also needed for the cash redemption and container counting side of the process.

The development of the solutions required a multi-step approach:

  • Research and development of customer and depot-facing solutions
  • Proof of concept and rapid prototyping
  • Development of secure IoT cloud solution
  • Manufacture and testing of the solution
  • Development of remote monitoring and support
  • Deployment of the first iteration
  • Development of training materials and an online depot operator training platform
  • Continuous improvement of the final design and a multilevel support solution.


Research and development

SAGE Automation worked with CDS and professors from the University of South Australia (Uni SA) to develop an Automatic Redemption Terminal (ART) for the automated sorting, counting and processing of deposit legislation containers.

The terminal uses a unique smart vision system, developed by Uni SA, to identify the types of containers, including those which have damaged labels.

As sister companies, SAGE and Nukon worked together on the delivery. While SAGE delivered the control systems, Nukon took care of the IT and customer-facing solution, utilising Industrial Internet of Things technology.

Making use of inexpensive computers, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Internet of Things (IoT), the cloud infrastructure ensured costs were kept down, allowing the system to be easily expanded where needed.

Read more about Nukon's solution here: IoT provides answer to War on Waste

Proof-of-concept and prototyping

As a brand new solution, the idea underwent a proof-of-concept and rapid prototyping phase to ensure it would enable the return of bulk containers in any condition.

The final solution is a secure, robust, cost-effective alternative to reverse vending machines.

Working with Uni SA and Macweld Industries, and following an agile project delivery method, SAGE and Nukon were able to reduce development costs and the client was given opportunities to review, test and adjust the solution during the prototyping stage.

New features were added even after the solution went live, via remote updates and enhancements. This allowed CDS to respond quickly to customer feedback and new challenges.

Supply chain, scalable manufacturing and testing

Working with the SAGE Group of companies provided the opportunity for CDS to access industry knowledge and technology solutions, such as Siemens, Advantech and Beckhoff, as part of the product development process.

SAGE Automation are able to source components from their own supply chain to ensure all terminals are maintainable, and the hardware products used in the design are fit for purpose.

As part of the product development process, SAGE Automation ensured CDS could scale the manufacture of machines as required, enabling rapid expansion particularly as new container deposit schemes are launched in other states.



While SAGE manufactured the ART control systems in their Tonsley Manufacturing Centre, there was also a requirement to do final assembly and factory acceptance testing prior to shipping to CDS’s customer sites.

To achieve this capability, SAGE expanded into extra manufacturing space within the Tonsley precinct.

As further container deposit schemes have rolled out, SAGE Group has been able to support this growth and continued innovation.


Market demand for the automated recycling solution quickly grew as the Queensland container deposit scheme, Containers for Change, began.

A high volume of control panels was required to meet market demand and to keep production costs low, which required SAGE to reduce the time taken to manufacture the terminals.

A number of opportunities to improve the speed to market were identified:

  • Panel cutouts - Using SAGE’s CNC machine to door and gland plate cutouts and backplate holes provide increased efficiency when dealing with high amounts of identical panels.

  • Panel cabling - SAGE’s automated cable looming machine reduced the time taken to complete a cabinet back panel by 60%.

  • Throughput - Orders of 100 machines can be produced at a time, allowing for volume discounts to be obtained from the supply chain.



CDS have an ongoing support contract with SAGE Automation and Nukon to ensure smooth operation of technology and that depot managers have 24-hour access to technical support when needed. This model minimises the risk of downtime for depot operators / managers.

SAGE Automation Service in Queensland, WA, NSW and South Australia provide holistic maintenance and support for the depots across Australia. This support includes the machine (such as electrical and mechanical maintenance) and the technology solution implemented.

The service department of each state and territory holds stock of critical spares to provide rapid support in the event of a fault or breakdown.

Nukon Support Desk and the National Operations Centre are critical to enable support as a first point of triage.


SAGE Automation and Nukon enabled CDS to further commercialise and scale their solution through a comprehensive product development offering. Value has been added to each stage of the project thanks to the SAGE Group of companies.


To meet the current demand, SAGE has expanded their product development space within the Tonsley Innovation Precinct to accommodate the volume of manufacturing required to support this growth.

This also ensures continued collaboration and ongoing development between CDS and the SAGE Group companies.




Project highlights

Research and development

  • University of South Australia developed a highly sophisticated vision system exclusively for CDS. 
  • Research was conducted in collaboration with one of South Australia's most reputable universities. 

Cloud infrastructure and Internet of Things

  • Dynamically assigned resources
  • Access to best-in-class technology and capability
  • Country-wide network connectivity
  • Affordability and security.

Training development

  • Skills Lab developed training materials based on the terminals and equipment used, which supports the deployment of CDS terminals. Depot operators can undertake training via an online portal and become certified in the use of the machines. 

Continuous improvement

  • The solution has been continually refined and has evolved through further development and to accommodate customer needs. 
  • Recent terminals  are currently being deployed in Queensland and Western Australia, as the recycling schemes in these regions expand. These terminals include features to improve accessibility and are easier to maintain. 

Technical support

  • SAGE Service, the National Operations Centre and Nukon provide ongoing technical support for CDS and CDS clients. This ensures the solution has lifetime support that depots can access if needed. 

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