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Media release
9 MAR 2023

9 billion bottles and cans recycled and $900m in refunds returned to NSW

NSW has reached a new recycling milestone with 9 billion bottles, cans and drink cartons returned by the community through the Return and Earn return point network. 

Danielle Smalley, CEO of Exchange for Change, scheme coordinator for Return and Earn said the community’s tremendous support for the scheme is delivering huge benefits to the environment and the people of NSW. 

“While today’s milestone means thousands of tonnes of plastic, glass and aluminium has avoided ending up in litter or landfill, it also represents $900 million in container refunds back into the hands of the community. 

“These funds are helping offset people’s weekly shopping costs, providing pocket money for kids and have become an important avenue for fundraising across the state, with more than $42 million raised for charities,” said Danielle Smalley. 

When you combine the 9 billion containers returned via the return point network together with kerbside recycled containers redeemed by local material recovery facilities, a staggering 11.73 billion bottles and cans have been collected since the scheme began in 2017.  

This equates to 837,000 tonnes of materials recycled and a reduction in CO2 emissions equivalent to taking more than 400,000 cars off the road for a year. 

James Dorney, CEO of TOMRA Cleanaway, network operator said we can all be proud of what we have achieved working together for a cleaner and more sustainable state. 

“It’s humbling to know Return and Earn is having a positive and measurable impact.  

“We have a proven record of success with 100 per cent of glass and plastic containers collected through the network reprocessed into new containers and other food grade packaging right here in Australia,” said James Dorney. 

Return and Earn is well-loved and part of life in NSW – 89% of NSW residents support the scheme and 82% have participated.  

Nicknamed the ‘Bottle Kids’, siblings Isabella (15), Giovanni (14), Valentina (12) and Romario (10) from Prestons have been returning and earning with mum Collette since 2018.  

So far, the family have collected 86,000 bottles and cans and hope to reach 100,000 by the end of the year. 

“The kids like to encourage our neighbours to recycle too, and it’s great knowing we’re making a positive difference,” said Collette Silva.  

Return and Earn is delivered in partnership with Exchange for Change as scheme coordinator and TOMRA Cleanaway as network operator, and is funded by the beverage industry.  

There are more than 600 return points located across NSW.