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Return & Earn: Understanding The NSW Scheme

It’s official: The NSW Return and Earn scheme is a success story. The largest litter reduction program ever introduced in New South Wales has received the best responses from the public and from the business sector as well. 

Since the scheme was launched on the 1st of December, 2017, more than 5.5 billion containers have been collected. The number of return points has significantly increased over the past four years. There are now more than 600 return points in the region. 

Through the efforts of various government agencies, private companies, environmental advocacy groups, and the NSW residents, about 40% of drink containers were saved from clogging the waterways and thrown into landfills as litter. 

These numbers are enough proof that NSW residents are doing their part in conserving our environment. Due to the facts stated above, we decided to support and disseminate information about the Return and Earn scheme for a wider audience.

This article is for those of you who want to understand the NSW Return and Earn scheme in the most comprehensive way. We’ve compiled all the relevant information and explained them in the simplest form.

Let’s get started.

How the Return & Earn Scheme Works

return and earn depot

Let us first identify the important entities involved in the NSW Return and Earn scheme. 

  • The EPA (NSW Environment Protection Authority) is the overall governing body of this scheme. They oblige all businesses that sell beverage drinks to enter a supply agreement and register all eligible containers.
  • Exchange for Change is the scheme coordinator. Their key role is managing the beverage suppliers and ensuring the funding of the program.
  • TOMRA Cleanaway is the network operator. They are responsible for setting up all the return points and making sure all collected containers are recycled.

The Return and Earn Scheme is simple. The public and business sectors are urged to collect their used drink containers and drop them off at several return point areas. 

A return point is a designated collection area where you can bring the containers. There are more than 600 return points across NSW as of October 2020.

Return points may be any of the following:

  • Reverse vending machine – accepts up to 500 containers at a time.
  • Reverse vending centers – areas where vending machines are located.
  • Automated depots – these areas are ideal if you are planning to bring more than 500 containers.
  • Over-the-counter sites – these sites accept 100 containers per visit.
  • Donation stations – these self-service stations are for donations only.

More information about each of the return points is explained here.

You will be refunded 10 cents for every eligible drink container that you bring.

Benefits Achieved Through Return & Earn

The state of New South Wales has greatly benefited from the Return and Earn scheme since its launch in 2017. The environment, small local businesses, and the general public are identified to be direct beneficiaries of the program.

To give you a clear picture of the positive impact the NSW Return and Earn scheme brings, here is the list of major benefits the program brought to NSW:

  • Significant Reduction in Litter

The major goal of the scheme is to protect our environment from incessant littering. The goal was achieved and more. Through the Return and Earn program, about 40% of beverage containers sold in NSW are retrieved and recycled promptly. 

Consumers now don’t see these containers as plain rubbish. Beverage drink containers now are treated as valuable commodities that can generate money for the people.

  • Local Job Creation

The participation of local businesses has served as the link to a large network of sectors. New jobs are generated as new return points are established. Manpower is needed in container collection, over-the-counter activities, and other jobs related to logistics.

  • Encourages Public Participation

The program started by initially building public awareness and encouraging to make the returns a habit. It was successful on both fronts. 

Another factor that led to the success of the scheme is the strategic placement of return centers. Reverse Vending machines and over-the-counter centers are located in supermarkets, transport stations, and existing paths of travel. 

As of this writing, more than 59% of adults in NSW have participated in the Return and Earn scheme. Nearly half of the total population of NSW has returned containers every month.

  • Source of Funding for Charities

The generous hearts and participation of the public have generated more than $1 million from the scheme. Community groups, religious institutions, and schools have participated with extreme success.

Types of Items The Return & Earn Scheme Accepts

The best way for identifying eligible containers for the Return and Earn scheme is by looking for the 10c refund marking. Most if not all 150ml to 3-litre beverage containers are marked and eligible for a refund.

You just have to make sure that each container is in good condition. The container should be empty, unbroken, uncrushed, and have the original label attached. If ever the container is ineligible for a refund, you are advised to use the recycling bin.

Return & Earn - Eligible Containers

Types of Items The Return & Earn Scheme Do Not Accept

Containers that do not have the 10c refund marking are not eligible for refunds. Moreover, certain types of containers are also not accepted in the scheme. The list includes:

  • Cordial bottles (Fruits and vegetable juices)
  • Glass spirit bottles
  • Glass wine bottles
  • Milk containers
  • Juice bottles 1 litre and over
  • Health tonics

If you own containers that are ineligible for the Return and Earn scheme, dispose of them through your household recycling bin. Your local council will still dispose and recycle them accordingly.

Return & Earn - Ineligible Containers

How Do You Get Paid for Participating in Return and Earn

Every carton, bottle, or can with the refund marking is worth 10 cents. 

You have four different payout options to choose from.

1. Retail Vouchers

Retail vouchers are only available at Reverse vending machines. You can find the option on the touchscreen then have it print out a retail voucher with the exact amount.

You can spend the retail voucher at participating stores and retailers. The voucher is valid for three years from the date of printing.

2. Electronic Refunds

The myTOMRA app is needed for Electronic refunds. Install the app on your phone.

There are two options for you to choose from if you want this payment method. One is by accepting E-vouchers for participating stores and supermarkets. The other is by choosing PayPal in which you have to scan the myTOMRA barcode with your phone.

3. Cash Refunds

Automated Depots and over-the-counter centres will give you cash as you return eligible containers. Be aware that returning more than 1500 containers will require you to present a valid ID and you’ll be asked to sign a declaration.

4. Donation Options

If you decide to donate the earnings you get from participating, from the reverse vending machine, there is a list of schools, charities, and non-profit organisations that you can choose from. The amount will automatically be sent to the recipient’s account.

Final Thoughts

The NSW Return and Earn scheme has indeed garnered tremendous success and general acceptance. However, it does not end here. There is still much to be done and more effort is still required from all participating sectors of the community. 

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann is a Digital Content Writer for Paul's Rubbish Removal. Sarah is a huge advocate for recycling, environmental sustainability, health and well-being and has a genuine love for all sea animals. Keep up with Sarah by following Paul's Rubbish Removal blog!

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