Role of first suppliers of drink containers

First suppliers of eligible drink containers into NSW play an important role in funding Return and Earn, the NSW Government’s Container Deposit Scheme.

For more information on supplier agreements, estimated costs and methodology and the supplier portal visit the Return and Earn website.

All suppliers who first supply eligible drink containers in NSW

  • must enter into a Supply Arrangement with the Scheme Coordinator, Exchange for Change, and contribute to the costs of Return and Earn under this arrangement
  • must ensure that the EPA has granted a container approval for each class of drink container they first supply in NSW

Unsure if you are a first supplier? This guidance should help inform your thinking.

Only one supplier must 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).

For example, if a product is manufactured in NSW and supplied to a retailer in NSW, the first supply point is from the manufacturer to the retailer. This means the manufacturer is the first supplier. The manufacturer therefore needs to enter into a Supply Arrangement with Exchange for Change, then ensure they have an EPA container approval for their containers.

To find out more

A legal interpretation of beverage suppliers' obligations under Return and Earn is found in the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Amendment (Container Deposit Scheme) Act 2016 and the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery (Container Deposit Scheme) Regulation 2017.

Supply Arrangement

Exchange for Change will enter into a Supply Arrangement with each first supplier in NSW of a beverage in a container. This Supply Arrangement requires the first supplier to

  • report on the volume of their own first supplies of beverages in containers in NSW, by material type
  • contribute to 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
  • To enter into a Supply Arrangement, visit  the Return and Earn website
  • Standard Supply Arrangement forms and related documents (PDF 609k).

Container approvals for beverage suppliers

Under Return and Earn, the EPA will grant a container approval 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.

A class of container is generally defined by

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

Find out which beverage containers are eligible

How to obtain an EPA container approval

Beverage suppliers must register and obtain EPA container approvals online through the NSW CDS Container Approval Portal.

To see if your class of container has already been registered for approval with the EPA

To register your containers for approval

  1. Go to the NSW CDS Container Approval Portal.
  2. Register your organisation.
  3. If your organisation’s registration is approved, you will receive a login and password.
  4. Confirm your container has not already been registered for approval.
  5. Register and pay for your beverage containers.
  6. The EPA will notify you whether your application has been approved.

It is unlawful to supply beverages in containers that have not been registered with the EPA and penalties may apply.

Application fees for container approvals

It is important to note

  • The EPA will not grant a container approval until this fee is paid.
  • The EPA will not refund the application fee if a supplier incorrectly registers a container. Before registering a container, suppliers should check it is covered by the scheme and is not already registered for EPA approval.
  • Individual container approvals are valid for five years.
  • After this five-year period, suppliers must apply to renew if they wish to extend their container approval.

Container Approval fee reduction

On 12 April 2019 the NSW EPA reduced the Container Approval Application fee from $80 to $13.70. The change was made based on recommendations by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).

Cap on application fee for small suppliers

On 12 April 2019 the EPA also removed the fee cap for small suppliers.  IPART found that the reduced container approval application fee removes the need for the fee cap. 

Transition period

To minimise disruption to business resulting from the introduction of Return and Earn, a two year container approval transition period is in place until 1 December 2019. The approval transition period enables suppliers to make the necessary changes to barcodes, labels and can lids to comply with the legislation. During this period penalties will not apply to anyone who supplies registered containers that are non-compliant. 

On 1 December 2019, the transition period ends. From this date, substantial penalties may apply to container approval holders who supply beverages that do not meet the conditions of approval. Penalties may also apply to any supplier or retailer who supplies or attempts to supply an eligible container that does not bear the refund marking in accordance with the Regulation.  

Container Deposit Scheme refund mark 

The Regulation prescribes that the marking or labelling for a container must contain the words “10c refund at collection depots/points in participating State/Territory of purchase” in clear and legible characters.
All suppliers and retailers in NSW are liable for ensuring that the containers they supply bear the correct refund mark in accordance with the Regulation. The correct refund mark can be included on the product label or be printed/placed directly onto containers.

Barcode requirement

It is a condition of each container approval that containers supplied into NSW comply with the barcode requirement. A compliant barcode is a GTIN barcode unique to that class of containers. Please refer to the Regulation for the complete barcode requirement.

From 1 December 2019, substantial penalties may apply to container approval holders who supply eligible containers that do not meet the barcode requirement. 

Removable lid requirement

It is also a condition of approval that containers made of metal (cans) do not have a ring-pull removable lid. These are commonly referred to as 360 end cans.  Please refer to the Regulation for the complete definition. From 1 December 2019, substantial penalties may apply to container approval holders who supply eligible containers into NSW that have ring-pull removable lids. Removable lids do not include twist tops and popular stay-tab mechanisms. 

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