Return and Earn

North Sydney Council provides kerbside recycling services to the local community.

To complement these services, the NSW Government is committed to reducing litter volume in NSW by 40% by 2020.

Return and Earn helps reduce drink container litter which in 2014-15 totalled around 160 million in our environment, costing NSW millions of dollars to clean up. Locate your nearest access point here Return and Earn - return points.


Which containers can be refunded?

Return and Earn has been introduced to reduce drink container litter across NSW. As such, containers that are eligible under the scheme are those most commonly found as litter.

Which containers can be returned for a refund?


Most 150ml to three litre drink containers will be eligible for a 10 cent refund at an approved NSW collection point. Container materials that may be eligible for a refund include:

  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Aluminium
  • Steel
  • Liquid paperboard (cartons)

Containers should be empty, uncrushed, unbroken and have the original label attached. Wine, spirits, cordial and plain milk containers are generally not eligible. If a container isn't eligible for a refund, please use a recycling bin.

Which containers aren't eligible for a refund?


Containers that can’t be deposited for a refund include:

  • 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 or water of one litre or more
  • Sachets for wine of 250ml or more
  • Containers for cordials and concentrated fruit/vegetable juices
  • Registered health tonics


Key features

  • more than 500 collection points will be set up across the state, including in remote towns of more than 500 people and at 270 sites across the Greater Sydney Region
  • the network will include more than 800 reverse vending machines across NSW
  • the 10-cent refund 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.

How will this benefit my community?

The main beneficiaries of the scheme will be the environment and the community. Economic analysis shows that the scheme will deliver $1.33 of benefits for every $1 of cost. 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.   

In addition, councils are estimated to save $155 million in container collection and transport costs, and costs will be reduced for recycling processors by $33 million.

Or proceeds can be collected when utilised by a charity such as: Citizen Blue


Impacts on human health and wellbeing

Litter can have serious impacts, including:

  • environmental - litter damages natural environments and harms terrestrial and marine wildlife
  • visual - litter makes places look unsightly and uncared for, and attracts more litter
  • human health - litter like broken glass and syringes can injure people. The presence of litter makes it more likely that other antisocial behaviours will occur, like graffiti and property damage   
  • resource - easily recyclable and valuable resources, like drink containers, are lost when people litter. Even if littered items are subsequently collected, they are often too contaminated to be recycled   
  • economic - a 2015 survey of local government, state agencies, private land managers and community groups found that more than $162 million a year is currently being spent on managing litter in NSW. That is money that could be spent on other things.   

Environmental impacts

Litter damages natural environments, and harms terrestrial and marine wildlife. Did you know:

  • In 2016, Clean Up Australia Day volunteers removed an estimated 6,000 tonnes of rubbish from parks, waterways, beaches and bushland. This was down from 6351 tonnes in 2015, however drink containers made up nearly 30% of litter collected, up from 19% in 2015.   
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from landfill in NSW account for 3.4Mt of carbon dioxide, representing 3% of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.   
  • Refilling bottles at a Sydney Water refill station located near a skate park in Liverpool, NSW resulted in 13,616 x 500ml refills, saving 11,347 plastic bottles from entering landfill in May 2017. 

How do 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 must not be crushed and must have a legible barcode.

There will be more than 500 collection points across NSW that may include reverse vending machines (RVMs) in your local shopping centre or shops, depot sites, existing recycling centres, or a combination of all. A geolocator map helps you find your nearest collection point.

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