Return & Earn


1. Overview

The NSW Government is delivering the largest litter reduction scheme ever introduced in NSW; Return and Earn.

Return and Earn is part of the NSW Government’s commitment to reducing litter volume in NSW by 40 per cent by 2020.

2. Key features of Return and Earn:

  • When the scheme is fully rolled out, there will be more than 500 collection points across the state, including in remote towns of more than 500 people and at 270 sites across the Greater Sydney Region.
  • The 10-cent refund at reverse vending machines will be provided as a voucher for in store redemption, electronic transfer, cash or may be donated to a community group.
  • Eligible containers include most glass, cans, plastic and paperboard drink containers between 150 millilitres and three litres – those most often found in the litter stream.


3. What are the benefits?

The main beneficiaries of the scheme will be the environment and the community.

Over the next 20 years, the Scheme is expected to result in:

1. 1.6 billion fewer beverage containers being littered

2. Almost 11 billion fewer beverage containers ending up in landfill

3. 12.6 billion more beverage containers being recycled.


4. What containers are eligible?

Most empty 150ml to 3L beverage containers will be eligible for a 10 cent refund when presented at an approved NSW collection point.

Container materials that may be eligible for a refund include:

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


5. Scheme exceptions

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 one litre or more
  • pure fruit or vegetable juice containers of one litre or more
  • glass containers for wine and spirits
  • casks (plastic bladders in boxes) for wine and casks for water of one litre or more
  • sachets for wine of 250 millilitres or more
  • containers for cordials, and concentrated fruit/vegetable juices
  • registered health tonics.

These drinks are predominantly consumed at home and are not found in the litter stream. They are also broadly similar to the exceptions in the South Australian and Northern Territory container deposit schemes, to aid consistency.


6. How can I participate?

From 1 December 2017, consumers can exchange an eligible container at an approved collection point to receive a 10 cent refund per container. Containers should be empty, uncrushed, unbroken and with the original label attached.


7. Where can I exchange my container in Gilgandra?

At present the location for the collection point in Gilgandra is undecided. Please check back soon and we will update the information when it becomes available.


8. Can I still use my yellow bin for recycling?

Kerbside recycling remains very important to our community, and Return and Earn is designed to complement this system. Eligible containers can continue to be placed in the kerbside system, and kerbside recycling will continue to be important for containers that are typically consumed at home, some of which aren’t eligible for a refund within Return and Earn. You will not personally receive the refund if you put containers in kerbside recycling. Instead your Council has the opportunity to enter into an agreement with its recycling facility to agree a refund sharing arrangement from those containers.


9. What is a Reverse Vending Machine (RVM)?

A reverse vending machine (RVM) is the opposite of a drink dispensing machine. A person places their empty eligible drink container into the machine, the container is scanned to verify it is eligible and the person receives a voucher they can redeem for cash in a store nearby. These machines are designed to not to hold cash for security reasons.


10. How do I get paid my refund?

Consumers that use an RVM to return their containers will have three options to receive a refund payment:

1. Donating to a selected charity

2. Receiving the refund into your registered account

3. Taking a voucher into the retail partner to either redeem for cash or use towards your purchase


11. Can I crush my cans and bottles?

No. Do not crush containers prior to redeeming your refund. Containers, should be empty, uncrushed, unbroken and with the original label attached. Containers must be verified as eligible before a refund is paid.


12. Do I need to remove the lid from my container?

No. Bottles with lids can go through RVMs without difficulty. The lids are a valuable resource and will be recycled too. We don’t want lids ending up as litter.


13. How do I become a collection point?

To register your interest to run a collection point visit the website of the Network Operator, TOMRA-Cleanaway and fill out their online form.


14. How can my school or community group use Return and Earn to fundraise?

  • Charities, schools, community or sporting groups can collect donations of empty eligible containers for the charity or community group to then redeem them at an approved collection point.
  • Charities, community groups and social enterprises can also work with the Network Operator to set up and run collection points in exchange for a service fee.