Before NSW introduced the Return and Earn scheme, more than 160 million drink containers littered our streets, beaches, waterways and parks. Drink container litter made up 44 per cent of the volume of litter in the state and cost more than $162 million a year to manage.
The Return and Earn container deposit scheme is a NSW Government initiative funded by contributions from the beverage industry. It offers a 10c refund to consumers for depositing eligible drink containers at return points across NSW.
Since launching on 1 December 2017, the scheme has collected over 2 billion containers through its 600+ return points and has helped reduce the volume of eligible drinks container litter across the state by 57%.
How Return and Earn is structured
Return and Earn is administered by scheme coordinator, Exchange for Change. The network operator, TOMRA Cleanaway, is responsible for setting up and running the return point network and meeting collection targets, and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is responsible for regulating the scheme. First suppliers (manufacturers, importers, wholesalers or retailers) bringing eligible drink containers into NSW are responsible for funding the cost of Return and Earn.
Exchange for Change
Exchange for Change is the scheme coordinator of Return and Earn. It is responsible for managing the scheme’s finances, collecting contributions from beverage suppliers, and distributing the money to the network operator and other scheme participants. It is also in charge of managing the risk of fraud in the scheme and educating the community.
Exchange for Change is a joint venture of five of Australia’s beverage companies: Asahi Beverages, Carlton & United Breweries, Coca-Cola Amatil, Coopers Brewery and Lion. Together, these companies have more than 40 years of experience managing container refund programs in Australia.
Network operator TOMRA Cleanaway manages the return points and ensures returned containers are recycled. It is responsible for refunding consumers at return points and receives a network fee per container collected based on the material type.
TOMRA Cleanaway is a joint venture between a global leader in reverse vending technology, TOMRA, and Australia’s largest total waste management solutions company, Cleanaway.
As the scheme regulator, NSW EPA is responsible for designing and developing the scheme; managing registration of all eligible beverage containers supplied in NSW; and managing the obligations and performance of contracts with the scheme coordinator and network operator, as well as various associated deeds.
A supplier is any business selling beverages in containers or giving them away as part of a promotion. It can be a manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler or retailer. If a business is a ‘first supplier’, it must enter into a supply agreement with Exchange for Change and ensure any eligible containers that it supplies in NSW are registered with the EPA.
First suppliers help fund Return and Earn by financially contributing to the scheme in proportion to their share of the number of containers supplied into NSW.
Material recovery facility operators
Material recovery facility operators registered with the NSW EPA can claim processing refunds for eligible containers collected through kerbside recycling bins.