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Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Waste and recycling

How will Return and Earn work?

Once Return and Earn, the NSW container deposit scheme, is operational on 1 December 2017, consumers can present an eligible beverage container to a collection point and be paid 10 cents per container.

Beverage suppliers' obligations

Beverage suppliers' obligations under Return and Earn are found in Part 5 of the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2001 (WARR Act) and the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery (Container Deposit Scheme) Regulation 2017 (Regulation). Some of the provisions in Part 5 of the WARR Act have not commenced. These provisions can be found in the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Amendment (Container Deposit Scheme) Act 2016.

Obligations relating to the first supply of containers

All suppliers who make the first supply of eligible beverage containers in NSW

  • must enter a Supply Arrangement with the Scheme Coordinator, Exchange for Change, and pay a contribution to the costs of Return and Earn under this arrangement.
  • must ensure that a container approval has been granted by the EPA for each class of beverage containers that they first supply in NSW. Only one supplier needs to hold the container approval for each class of containers. This means suppliers must ensure that either they or another supplier hold the relevant container approval(s). 

‘Supply’ includes supply by sale or otherwise in the course of carrying on a business. A business giving away promotional beverages in containers is also deemed to be supplying beverages in a container under the Scheme.

Supply Arrangement

Exchange for Change will enter into, and give effect to, a standard form Supply Arrangement with each supplier (who undertakes the first supply in NSW of a beverage in a container). This Supply Arrangement requires the supplier to

  • report on the volume of their own first supplies of beverages in containers in NSW, by material type; and
  • pay contributions towards the cost of managing, administering and operating the Scheme, based on the volume of the supplier’s first supplies as a proportion of the total volume of all eligible containers first supplied in NSW.

Suppliers must enter Supply Arrangements by 1 October 2017 to meet November invoicing deadlines. To enter into a Supply Arrangement, go to

For information only

Container approvals for beverage suppliers

From 1 December 2017, under Return and Earn, a container approval granted by the EPA is required for each class of eligible beverage containers first supplied in NSW. Each supplier who first supplies a class of beverage container must ensure a container approval is in force for that container class.

Class of container is generally defined by

  • barcode
  • set of physical dimensions
  • product name
  • beverage type
  • container material type
  • container colour (for PET or glass only)

More information

How to obtain an EPA container approval

Beverage suppliers must register and obtain EPA container approvals online through the Container Deposit Scheme Portal. Only one supplier needs to hold the container approval for each class of containers. This means a supplier must ensure either they or another supplier hold the relevant container approval(s).

  1. Go to the Container Deposit Scheme Portal.
  2. Register your organisation as a supplier.
  3. If your organisation’s registration is approved, you will receive a login and password.
  4. Log on to the Container Deposit Scheme Portal.
  5. Register and pay for your beverage containers for EPA approval.
  6. The EPA will notify you whether your application has been approved.

For more information

Application fees for container approvals

  • An application fee of $80 applies per container.
  • The EPA will not grant a container approval until this fee is paid.
  • Individual container approvals are valid for 5 years.
  • After this 5-year period, suppliers must apply to renew if they wish to extend their container approval.

Obligations for any supply of containers

Refund marking

Return and Earn will require all eligible beverage containers supplied in NSW to contain a new refund marking. The required refund marking will be prescribed in the Regulation in late 2017.

The NSW Government has agreed to phase in this requirement by 24 months to enable beverage suppliers to run through their existing stock. This 24-month transition will commence when the refund marking is published in the Regulation.

Why is Return and Earn coming to NSW?

About 160 million drink containers were littered in NSW in 2014–15. This represents about 44% of the volume of all litter in NSW. Drink containers make up the largest proportion of litter volume in NSW, twice as much as the next largest proportion, which is take-away cups and food containers.

Litter can have serious impacts, including:

  • environmental – litter damages natural environments and harms terrestrial and marine wildlife
  • visual – litter makes places look unsightly and uncared for, and attracts more litter
  • human – litter like broken glass and syringes can injure people; the presence of litter makes it more likely that other antisocial behaviours will occur, like graffiti and property damage
  • lost resources – easily recyclable and valuable resources, like drink containers, are lost when people litter; even if littered items are subsequently collected, they are often too contaminated to be recycled
  • economic – a 2015 survey of local government, state agencies, private land managers and community groups found that more than $162 million a year was being spent on managing litter in NSW that could have been spent on other things.

Social research undertaken by the Government in November 2016 found that 79% of respondents across the State are in favour of the scheme.

South Australia and the Northern Territory already have container deposit schemes in place 

The Queensland and Australian Capital Territory governments have announced they will introduce similar schemes in 2018.

Litter facts

  • On average, 7 litres of litter was dumped on NSW roads and highways in 2016. Beverage containers that would be eligible for a refund under the Scheme made up 45% of that litter.
  •  In 2015, Clean Up Australia Day volunteers removed 6351.4 tonnes of rubbish from parks, water ways, beaches and bushland. This was up from 5962 tonnes in in 2014. Beverage containers represented 36% of litter collected from those locations.
  • 65% of NSW consumers drink an average of 5.4 beverages outside the home each week. Of those, 70% of the containers are not brought home to recycle.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from landfill in NSW accounts for 3.4Mt of carbon dioxide, representing 3% of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Refilling keep bottles at a Sydney Water refill station near a skate park in Liverpool, NSW resulted in 13,616 x 500 ml refills, saving 11,347 plastic bottles from entering landfill in May 2017.

What is the NSW Government doing about litter?

In September 2015, the NSW Government committed to reducing the volume of litter in NSW by 40% by 2020. Return and Earn will complement the broad suite of litter reduction initiatives that are already under way as part of the $802 million Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, in which the Government has dedicated $50 million over nine years to tackle litter.

Visit the EPA litter prevention pages for more information on litter reduction initiatives.

Page last updated: 21 August 2017