Return and Earn is about different containers like bottles, cans and cartons that make up a large proportion of the litter in our neighbourhoods.

So, not all containers are eligible for a Return and Earn refund but they can still be recycled through your household recycling collection.

Most drinks containers between 150ml and three litres can get you a refund. They need to be in good condition (not broken or crushed), be empty and have the label attached.

The containers can be made of:

  • Glass;
  • Plastic;
  • Aluminium;
  • Steel;
  • Or liquid paperboard (cartons).

Containers that are not included in the Scheme and, therefore, do not qualify for a refund are:

  • plain milk or milk substitute containers
  • flavoured milk containers of 1 litre or more
  • pure fruit or vegetable juice containers of 1 litre or more
  • glass containers for wine and spirits
  • casks (plastic bladders in boxes) for wine and casks for water of 1 litre or more
  • sachets for wine of 250 millilitres or more
  • containers for cordials, or concentrated fruit and vegetable juices
  • registered health tonics

Our eligibility checker below will help you work out what containers you can and can’t return. If you’ve used the quick container checker and are still unsure about which containers are eligible for a refund, search the container database on the EPA website.

Find a return point near you

We offer four different types of return points: Reverse Vending Machines, Automatic Depots, Over the Counter Sites and Donation Stations.  Enter a suburb or postcode to find a return point suitable for you.

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Container eligibility FAQs

  • What drink containers are eligible?

    Use our eligibility tool below to determine if your container is or is not eligible for a refund.

    Most 150ml to three litre beverage containers are eligible for a 10 cent refund provided they are made from glass, plastic, aluminium, steel or liquid paperboard.  These are the containers most regularly found in the litter stream.

    Containers need to be empty, uncrushed, unbroken, and have the original label intact.

  • What drink containers are NOT eligible?

    150ml to three litres beverage containers NOT eligible for a 10 cent refund include:

    • Plain milk (or milk substitutes)
    • One litre or more of: flavoured milk, pure fruit/vegetable juice, wine and water casks
    • Wine and spirits in glass containers
    • Wine sachets of 250 millilitres or more
    • Cordials and concentrated fruit/vegetable juices
    • Registered health tonics.

    Use our eligibility tool to determine if your container is or is not eligible for a refund.

  • What do I do with my ‘eligible container’ if it is not accepted?

    Firstly, use our eligibility tool to determine if your container is or is not eligible for a refund.

    Containers should be empty, uncrushed, unbroken and have the original label intact or they may not be accepted by a Reverse Vending Machine or any other type of return point. Containers that are not accepted should be placed in a recycling bin.

    Reverse Vending Machines are programmed to accept eligible containers only. If it doesn’t fit the criteria and the machine doesn’t take it, then take a picture capturing the brand and send it to us by email. If you have any enquiries, please contact our Customer Service Centre via email or call us on 1800 290 691.

  • Can I crush my cans and bottles?

    No. Please don’t crush your containers. They must be readily identifiable as an eligible container to receive a refund.

  • What happens if my container doesn’t have a label?

    Containers should be empty, uncrushed, unbroken and have their original label intact. If your container does not have a label it may not be recognised as an eligible container and will not be eligible for a refund.

  • Why are some containers eligible for a refund and some aren’t?

    The containers which are currently eligible for a refund are those that are most commonly found as litter in our streets, beaches, waterways and parks across NSW.

    They are the type of beverage containers you might consume ‘on the go’ when you are outside or away from home. Whereas at home, you can continue to recycle other non-eligible containers like wine, cordial, milk and spirit bottles, in your kerbside recycling bin.

  • Can I keep using kerbside recycling?

    Yes, eligible containers can continue to be placed in the kerbside recycling.  Kerbside recycling will continue to be important for containers that are typically consumed at home – some of which aren’t eligible for a refund through Return and Earn.

    Kerbside recycling will continue to be processed at recycling facilities where it is sorted and baled to be sold as a commodity and recycled into something new.

  • What happens to the containers that I put in my kerbside recycling?

    You will not personally receive the refund if you put containers in kerbside recycling. However, the operators of material recovery facilities that process the material collected in kerbside recycling will be permitted to claim the refund on eligible containers that they process. It is expected that these operators will negotiate to share a part of these refunds with the relevant councils.

  • Are growlers and squealers eligible for a refund?

    Growlers and squealers are types of containers mainly used by breweries to sell beer.

    A growler or squealer that is not sealed for the purposes of transport or storage before its sale, delivery, or use or consumption of its contents, is not covered by Return and Earn (refer to section 22 of the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2001).

    For example, growlers or squealers that a consumer purchases empty, brings into the store to be filled with a beverage such as beer, and then takes away are not covered by Return and Earn.

    However, if a growler or squealer is sealed before being transported or stored for retail purposes, it is eligible for a refund. This is the case even if the container is refillable and is used for future purchases of beer for example.