Return and Earn

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

To complement these services, the NSW Government is delivering the largest litter reduction scheme ever introduced in NSW- the NSW container deposit scheme, Return and Earn.

Return and Earn will commence from 1 December 2017 to help reduce drink container litter, which in 2014-15 totalled about 160 million drink containers in our environment, costing the people of NSW millions of dollars in clean-up fees.

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

Key features of Return and Earn are:

  • 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.


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.   

What containers are eligible?

Most empty 150-millilitre to 3-litre beverage containers will be eligible for a 10-cent refund when presented to an approved NSW collection point. There are some exceptions, and containers not eligible for a refund are described in the section below.

Container materials that may be eligible for a refund include:

recycle_codes_1.jpg PET

recycle_codes_2.jpg HDPE

recycle_codes_3.jpg recycle_codes_4.jpg glass

recycle_codes_5.jpg aluminium


recycle_codes_6.jpg liquid paperboard


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 1 litre or more
  • pure fruit or vegetable juice containers of 1 litre or more
  • glass containers for wine and spirits
  • casks (plastic bladders in boxes) for wine and casks for water of 1 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.


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 will be unveiled in coming weeks so that you can find your nearest collection point.

Related Documents

Posted on 9 November 2017

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