Return and Earn

The NSW container deposit scheme, Return and Earn, will commence across NSW on 1 December 2017 and everyone will have a role to play. Drink container litter makes up 44% of the volume of all litter in the state and costs more than $162 million to manage. Return and Earn will be the largest litter reduction scheme introduced in NSW, and will help meet the Premier's goal of reducing the volume of litter in the state by 40% by 2020.

Structure of Return and Earn

Return and Earn will be delivered through a two-part structure

The Minister for the Environment appointed the Scheme Coordinator and Network Operator on 28 July 2017 following a competitive selection process.

Features of Return and Earn

  • Most NSW beverage containers between 150 millilitres and 3 litres in volume will be eligible for a 10-cent refund with some exceptions.
  • Beverage suppliers (manufacturers, importers, wholesalers or retailers) that first supply eligible drink containers in NSW will be responsible for funding refunds and associated Scheme costs.
  • More than 500 collection points will be established by the Network Operator, TOMRA Cleanaway, and rolled out across the State, including priority collection areas in metropolitan and regional locations.
  • The state has been divided into seven zones, and the Network Operator is responsible for meeting collection targets in each zone.
  • Collection points will include more than 800 reverse vending machines, and may also include local shops, depot sites and recycling centres.

Eligible drink containers

Under Return and Earn, most empty 150-millilitre to 3-litre drink containers will be eligible for a 10-cent refund when presented to an approved NSW collection point. Container materials that may be eligible for a refund include

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


Eligible containers in kerbside recycling bins will also be redeemable. Return and Earn will allow recycling facilities to use an EPA-approved method for

  • accurately estimating the number of containers recovered in the facility
  • claiming the refund from the Scheme Coordinator

The recycling 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 out containers or substantially change their existing recovery processes.

Containers not eligible for a refund

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 of 1 litre or more
  • sachets for wine of 250 millilitres or more
  • containers for cordials, or concentrated fruit and vegetable juices
  • registered health tonics
  • These exceptions are like those in the South Australian and Northern Territory container deposit schemes, to aid consistency.

Get involved

There are many ways to participate in Return and Earn, and help the environment and your community.

  • Take your empty containers to a collection point. Collection points are rolling out from 1 December – an interactive map will be available online soon so you can identify the ones nearest you.
  • Donate your containers to local charities, schools and community groups to help them fundraise.
  • Continue to use your yellow bin kerbside recycling service.
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