Return and Earn is an industry-funded recycling scheme in NSW that provides members of the public with a 10c refund for each eligible bottle, can or beverage carton they return. Since it began in 2017, community members across the state have returned more than eight billion containers for recycling.
Container Deposit Schemes (CDS), which will soon be implemented in every state and territory in Australia, are designed to reduce litter. According to the NSW Government, the Return and Earn scheme has reduced drink container litter by 52 per cent. Expanding the types of containers accepted to include larger containers and wine and spirits bottles aims to further reduce litter as well as boost recycling rates.
One of the benefits of CDS that is often overlooked is the containers that are collected are recycled into higher quality materials than containers collected through comingled recycling (such as council-run kerbside services). Separating drink containers from other types of recycling creates a clean waste stream that is free of contaminants like food scraps. This gives more control to recyclers and ensures the materials used to make the containers like glass and paper are turned into high-quality end-products with a stronger market value.
What items will be accepted in the scheme?
If the plan goes ahead, the scheme will expand its eligibility criteria to include large containers up to three litres of beverages already included in the scheme, such as flavoured milk, fruit and vegetable juice, cask wine and sachets. The scheme will also include wine and spirits in glass bottles, and cordial and juice concentrate containers. There are no plans to include plain milk and health tonic containers.
Currently, members of the public can return the following containers for a refund if they are under one litre:
Cans such as soft drinks
Beer and mixer bottles
Juice boxes and poppers
Beverage cartons such as flavoured milk
Containers should be in good condition (not crushed or broken) and be empty. Users of the scheme are advised to leave the lids on so they can be recycled as well.
Have your say about the new plans
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is seeking feedback from the community, environmental groups, beverage and recycling industries, and local councils to understand views on expanding the scheme to include more types of drink containers. Interested parties can review the EPA’s discussion paper and fill out a survey with their feedback before 2 December 2022.
The NSW EPA will also be holding targeted stakeholder information sessions and webinars in the coming months to enable a smooth transition for new suppliers to the scheme.
Learn more about CDS
Find out more about CDS including what’s happening in your state or territory.