In 2017, the Return & Earn scheme was introduced in New South Wales to help reduce the amount of rubbish throughout the state. Beaches, parks and streets have been littered with cans, bottles and cartons for many years – and the clean up has cost the government millions of dollars. The scheme rewards people who do the right thing, paying 10c per piece.

Within the first six months alone, more than 350 million drink containers were refunded at various collection points. In three years, more than 4 billion containers had been collected and returned, equating to over $400 million in refunds allocated. The scheme encourages adults and children alike to keep litter off the streets, while earning extra cash. Schools and charities are also getting involved.

Once returned, drink containers are 100% recycled – protecting the environment and the waterways. To ensure every aspect of the scheme runs smooth, the Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for it – managing the registration of eligible containers and ensuring the returns process runs efficiently.

Other states in Australia have similar schemes – for example, in Queensland it’s called Containers for Change, and in Victoria it’s the Container Deposit Scheme. They all operate on the same premise though – to get rubbish off the streets.

Return & Earn Process

The Return & Earn scheme allows for environmental management that not only rewards consumers who recycle, but also provides council with the opportunity to reduce the cost of litter management. It has improved sustainability and provides an affordable and reliable method of recycling. It’s easy enough to become involved:

Step One: You want to start collecting your cans, bottles and containers (see below for further information on what’s eligible).

Step Two: Take them to a return point.

Step Three: Earn a refund or donate.

There are currently more than 600 points across New South Wales where you can take your cans and bottles, depending on how many you have. And there are a few different ways you can drop off your items to the Return & Earn scheme. Here’s a bit more information:

Reverse Vending Machine: insert your empty containers into the chute at the front of the machine, select your preferred payment method. These machines take up to 500 eligible containers in one transaction. You can receive your payment via retail refund – a printed voucher that you can use at a participating retailer; digital refund that links to PayPal, e-Voucher refund for participating retailers, or you can choose to donate your refund to a charity.

Over The Counter: There are collection points located throughout your local area, where you can take up to 100 containers. There will be an operator there who will ensure your cans and bottles are in good condition, and they will give you a refund of 10c per container in cash.

Automated Depot: This is for people who have more than 500 containers. Take your items for mechanical scanning and counting. Refunds are processed as retail vouchers.

What Can Be Returned?

Most beverage containers between 150ml and 3 litres are eligible for the Return & Earn system if they are made from PET, HDPE, glass, aluminium, steel or liquid paperboard. It accepts the following, provided they are in good condition (not crushed or broken), are empty, and still have the label attached:

  1. Cans – soft drink, energy drinks
  2. Bottles – plastic and glass
  3. Cartons – milk
  4. Juice poppers

There’s one simple way to tell if your recyclables will be accepted – simply look for the 10c label on the container. If there is a 10c refund mark, you can return the container.

What Can’t Be Returned?

The following items are not accepted by the Return & Earn system; however you can still put these into your household recycling:

  1. Milk containers
  2. Glass wine bottles
  3. Glass spirit bottles
  4. Wine sachets of more than 250ml
  5. Juice bottles
  6. Cordial bottles
  7. Health tonics

If you’re not sure, check the container database online.

What Can You Do With Items You Can’t Return & Earn?

If you can’t return and earn your items, you can still recycle them, with the following three options:

Yellow Bin: All homes have a yellow bin for your recyclables. The bin is picked up, curbside, every fortnight from outside your home by local council, and allows you to dispose of all those old bottles you can’t return and earn, including milk and wine bottles. Just remember your items need to be loose in the bin, with no plastic bags or other non-recyclable items. The wrong items in the bin can contaminate the entire load.

Kerbside Council Cleanups: Many cities, including Sydney, offer kerbside cleanups where you place any items you want to get rid of on the footpath outside your home, the night before collection. Council collects a range of items in this – including furniture and white goods. Although it is preferred you don’t put your old wine bottles out for this, you can use this service for your general household rubbish removal.

Recycle Centre: If you have a large amount of glass bottles, milk containers and so on that won’t fit in your yellow bin, you can always pack them into the car and take them to your local recycle centre. Check online and give them a call first to see if they are accepting the items you have.

Rubbish Removal: Don’t have any way to get it to the local recycle centre yourself? Or do you have other items you need gone from your property as well? Hire a rubbish removal service like Cheapest Load of Rubbish to come and take all your trash away for you. They can remove any amount of trash and they’ll take it to your local recycle centre or landfill tip – whatever is suitable.

If you want to know more, get in touch with Cheapest Load of Rubbish today. We provide full rubbish removal services, we’re fully insured, and we’ll take care of your recyclables to ensure they are going to the right place.