Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Waste and recycling

What is Return and Earn?

Return and Earn, the NSW container deposit scheme, will commence across NSW on 1 December 2017. Container litter currently makes up 44% of all litter in the State and costs more than $162 million to manage. Return and Earn will help meet the Premier's goal of reducing the volume of litter in NSW by 40% by 2020. 

More than 500 collection points including 800 reverse vending machines (RVMs) will open across NSW to receive the empty eligible containers. More than half these collection points will be automated with 2 or 4 reverse vending machines.Collection points may also be local shops, depot sites, existing recycling centres, or a combination of all. An interactive map of collection points across the state will be available towards the end of 2017.

Most empty 150-millilitre to 3-litre beverage containers will be eligible for a 10-cent refund when presented at an approved NSW collection point.

Container materials that may be eligible for a refund include:

  • PET
  • HDPE
  • glass
  • aluminium
  • steel
  • liquid paperboard.

Some containers will not be eligible for a refund. They are described below.

Scheme exceptions

Containers that are not included in the scheme and, therefore, do not qualify for a refund are:

  • plain milk (or milk substitute) containers
  • flavoured milk containers of 1 litre or more
  • pure fruit or vegetable juice containers of 1 litre or more
  • glass containers for wine and spirits
  • casks (plastic bladders in boxes) for wine and casks for water - 1 litre or more
  • sachets for wine of 250 millilitres or more
  • containers for cordials, and concentrated fruit/vegetable juices
  • registered health tonics.

These drinks are predominately consumed at home and are not found in the litter stream. They are also broadly similar to the exceptions in the South Australian and Northern Territory container deposit schemes, to aid consistency.

Features of Return and Earn

Most NSW beverage containers between 150 millilitres and 3 litres in volume will be eligible for a refund with some exceptions (see Scheme exceptions). Beverage suppliers (manufacturers, importers, wholesalers or retailers) that bring eligible containers into NSW will be responsible for funding the refund as well as associated costs.

  • More than 500 collection points will be selected by the Network Operator, TOMRA-Cleanaway, and rolled out across the State, including priority collection areas in metropolitan and regional locations.
  • The Scheme will be delivered through a two-part structure: Scheme Coordinator, Exchange for Change will be responsible for financial management and ensuring the Scheme meets its statewide access and recovery targets, while Network Operator TOMRA-Cleanaway will set up and run a statewide network of collection points; they can build and operate these themselves or contract other organisations to operate them on their behalf.
  • The Minister for the Environment announced the Scheme Coordinator and Network Operator on 29 July 2017, following a competitive selection process.
  • The State has been divided into 7 zones, and the Network Operator is responsible for setting up collection points and meeting collection targets in each zone.
  • Eligible containers in kerbside recycling will also be redeemable. The Scheme will allow material recovery facilities to use an EPA-approved method for accurately estimating the number of containers recovered in the facility and to claim the refund from the Scheme Coordinator. Under this proposed approach, the facility will only receive the refund amount. They will not be able to claim a handling fee, but they will also not need to separate containers from other recycled materials, or substantially change their existing recovery processes.
Page last updated: 02 August 2017