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.

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

All suppliers who are responsible for the first point of supply of an eligible drink containers in NSW must

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

The full details of beverage suppliers’ legal obligations under Return and Earn can be found in the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2001 and the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery (Container Deposit Scheme) Regulation 2017.

Supply arrangements

For more information on how to register as a supplier, supplier arrangements, scheme payments and contribution methodology visit the Scheme Coordinator, Exchange for change website.

Container approvals

Under Return and Earn, eligible beverage containers must be submitted to the EPA for review and approval before they can be supplied in NSW. Each supplier who first supplies a beverage must ensure a container approval is in force for that class of container.

A class of container is generally defined by 

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

It is unlawful to supply eligible beverage containers that have not been approved by the EPA and penalties may apply.

To find out if your container already holds an approval, search the product barcode in the Container Search Tool

How to obtain an EPA container approval

To apply for container approvals

  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 submitted for approval using the container search tool.
  5. Apply for container approvals for your beverage containers and pay he application fee.
  6. The EPA will notify you whether your application has been approved.

Important note: container approvals are subject to conditions. The EPA may refuse to grant an approval for reasons including but not limited to the following

  • the materials the product is composed of (including labelling) are unsuitable for recycling
  • the labelling does not include the refund marking and/or compliant barcode
  • a Supply Arrangement is not in force between the applicant and the Scheme Coordinator

Refused products cannot be sold in NSW.

Application fees for container approvals

The NSW EPA container approval application fee is $13.70 per container.

Important 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 applies for a container approval. Before applying for a container approval, suppliers should check it is covered by the scheme and has not already been submitted 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.

Temporary fee waiver for small suppliers

In July 2020, the NSW EPA temporarily removed the container approval application fee to register a container ($13.70) for small suppliers. The temporary fee waiver was available for small suppliers (supplying 300,000 containers or less in NSW per financial year), providing financial relief to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. The fee waiver began on 3 July 2020 and was in place until 25 March 2021.

Removable ring-pull lids

From 1 December 2019, metal cans with removable ring-pull lids (such as 360 end lids) are prohibited in NSW. However, metal cans with ring-pull lids approved by the EPA before 1 December 2019 may continue to be sold until 31 May 2021.

No new approvals will be granted for cans with this lid type from 1 December 2019. This is to prevent the detachable lid from potentially entering the NSW litter stream, in keeping with the purpose of Return and Earn.

The prohibition only relates to metal containers. Twist tops and popular stay tab mechanisms can continue to be sold in NSW. 

Extension to ring-pull lid requirement

Metal cans with removable ring-pull lids approved before 1 December 2019 are subject to an extended transition period to 31 May 2021. This gives suppliers affected by the prohibition the equity of a full two-year transition period.

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 unique to that class of containers and is either a GTIN barcode or a 8-13 digit barcode that complies with the GS1 Standard. Please refer to the Regulation for the complete barcode requirement.

Substantial penalties may apply to container approval holders who supply eligible containers that do not meet the barcode requirement. 

More information

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