Return and Earn Container Deposit Scheme: The Low Down

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About 160 million drink containers were littered in 2014–15, costing the people of NSW millions of dollars in clean-up fees. The NSW Government’s Container Deposit Scheme, Return and Earn, will reduce the volume of litter caused by drink containers that currently make up about 44% of all litter discarded in NSW. Scheme users will receive a 10-cent refund for every eligible drink container submitted to a collection point. We have used the information available Return and Earn to bring you this easy, consolidated guide.


How do I get my refund? 

When you return containers at a reverse vending machine, you can obtain a refund in three ways:

  1. Receive a voucher to be redeemed for cash or an in-store credit at a participating retail partner (such as a Woolworths)
  2. Register to receive a direct payment to your designated bank account via PayPal (you need to download the app first!)
  3. Donate the refund to charities and community groups linked to the reverse vending machines

(The reverse vending machines do not hold cash).


What can I return? 

Most 150ml to 3-litre drink containers (UNCRUSHED) will be eligible for a 10 cent refund at an approved NSW collection point including:

  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Aluminium
  • Steel
  • Liquid paperboard (cartons)
  • Containers should be empty, uncrushed, unbroken and have the original label attached.



What can’t I return? 

Containers that can’t be deposited for a refund include:

  • Plain milk (or milk substitute) containers
  • Flavoured milk containers of one litre or more
  • Pure fruit or vegetable juice containers of one litre or more
  • Glass containers for wine and spirits
  • Casks (plastic bladders in boxes) for wine or water of one litre or more
  • Sachets for wine of 250ml or more
  • Containers for cordials and concentrated fruit/vegetable juices
  • Registered health tonics
  • Containers that have been crushed

If a container isn’t eligible for a refund, please use a recycling bin.



How the different drop points work 

Reverse vending machines

A Reverse Vending machine (RVM) is the opposite of a vending machine – the consumer simply places empty, uncrushed and unbroken drink containers into the RVM where they are scanned and processed. It will take up to 500 eligible containers in any one transaction. If eligible, the RVM will provide a refund in one of three ways mentioned above.

Over-the-counter collection points

An over-the-counter (OTC) collection point is a place you can take smaller quantities of eligible drink containers (usually up to 100 containers). The collection point operator will ensure the containers are eligible and are uncrushed and unbroken. After verifying and counting, a refund of 10 cents per container is provided in cash.

Automated depots

An automated depot provides consumers with a high volume (over 500 eligible containers) collection point. The automated depot has a mechanical scanning and counting system that provides for efficient processing of bulk lodgements. Refunds are processed as a retail refund. Donations and digital refunds are not available from automated depots.


Return and Earn locations

There are currently over 600 Return and Earn return points across NSW, with more being added every week. Find a return point here.


Happy returning! 🙂