The NSW container deposit scheme, Return and Earn is the largest litter reduction scheme introduced in NSW,
Return and Earn began rolling out across NSW on 1 December 2017 in response to the Premier's goal of reducing the volume of litter in the state by 40% by 2020. At the time, drink container litter made up 44% of the volume of all litter in the state and cost more than $162 million to manage.
Since commencement, the scheme has been a resounding success, reducing container litter in the environment and boosting recycling. In 2020, drink container litter was reduced by 40% and over 300,000 tonnes of materials recycled. You can access detailed and up to date performance figures on the NSW scheme performance dashboard.
- For more information on the scheme visit the scheme website.
How Return and Earn works
The EPA is responsible for the design and development of the scheme. We manage the registration of all eligible beverage containers and the obligations and performance of contracts with the scheme coordinator and network operator.
NSW beverage suppliers fund the Return and Earn scheme. Any businesses selling beverages in containers or giving them away as part of a promotion, whether manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers or retailers must enter a supply agreement with the scheme coordinator and register any eligible containers.
The scheme operations are delivered through fee-for-service contracts:
The scheme coordinator, Exchange for Change, is contracted to provide financial management, scheme auditing, fraud identification, verification, community education and marketing. A key role is to manage beverage suppliers and ensure supplier funds are paid into the scheme.
The network operator, TOMRA Cleanaway is contracted to set up and runs a state-wide network of return points and manages the logistics and sale of commodities to ensure all collected containers are recycled.
Visit Exchange for Change website for further information on
- how the scheme works, and
- the scheme payments and contribution methodology applied to beverage suppliers.
How to participate in the scheme
There are many ways to participate in Return and Earn. By participating you can also help protect the environment and support your community.
- Take your empty containers to a return point. To find your nearest return point, go to the Return and Earn website, enter your suburb details or postcode and follow the interactive map for directions.
- Donate your containers to a local charity, school or community group to help them fundraise.
- Continue to use your yellow bin kerbside recycling service. Materials recovery facilities (MRFs) receive a refund on every eligible container they collect through the council kerbside recycling system. MRFs are required to negotiate a refund sharing arrangement with councils that supply their kerbside material.
Containers that can be returned
Eligible drink containers are those most commonly found as litter in NSW. They’re often consumed ‘on the go.’
Most empty 150-millilitre to 3-litre drink containers are eligible for a 10-cent refund when presented to a NSW return point. The best way to identify an eligible container is by the 10c refund marking. If you are unsure, you can check using this tool.
It is important that containers are empty, uncrushed, unbroken and have the original label attached. If a container isn't eligible for a refund, please use a recycling bin.
Containers not eligible for a refund
Containers not accepted in the scheme are often consumed at home and do not qualify for a refund. These items can still go into household recycling and include
- milk containers
- glass wine bottles
- glass spirit bottles
- juice bottles 1 litre and over
- cordial bottles
Fundraise or donate through Return and Earn
Return and Earn provides a unique fundraising opportunity for charities, schools, community and sporting groups.
These groups can seek donations of eligible drink containers from the community and redeem them for a refund at a return point.
Charities, community groups and social enterprises can apply to the network operator to set up and run collection points. Vinnies is a great example of a social enterprise which has embraced the scheme and has become a much-valued part of Return and Earn. In 2020, over 100 million containers were processed through Vinnies’ automated depots and over-the-counter return points.
Groups can also apply to become a donation partner on reverse vending machines and receive donations from people using the machine. This enables people to donate simply by inserting their eligible drink containers in the machine, selecting the ‘donate’ option and choosing a group. Where relevant, donations of $2 or more will be issued with a receipt to claim a tax deduction.