Return and earn

Return and earn is reducing litter and helping the community raise money for schools, sports clubs, charities and community groups.

The Customer Service Commission supports customer initiatives through helping agencies understand customer needs to providing expert advice on implementation. This is a program we have supported.

Three kids wearing scouts uniforms return plastic bottle for a 10-cent refund


Littering impacts everyone. It spoils our environment and costs millions of dollars to clean up. Drink container litter makes up the largest proportion of all litter volume across NSW. Every year, more than 160 million drink containers litter our streets, beaches, waterways and parks.

What the NSW Government did

Return and earn was introduced in December 2017. It provides an incentive to the people of NSW to return eligible drink containers for a 10-cent refund from around 660 return points across NSW.

Recyclers can choose to receive a cash refund, a cash voucher from a reverse vending machine, electronic payment via the TOMRA app or to donate the money they earn, depending on which type of return point they visit.

Open seven days a week, Return and Earn provides a great way for students and the school community to get involved in reducing litter, recycling and raising money for their school. Whether you’re an individual, business, school or community organisation there are many ways you can get involved.

What was achieved

Return and earn is reducing the number of drink containers in the litter stream and helping to meet the goal of reducing the volume of litter in NSW by 40 per cent by 2020.

As at February 2019, over 1.4 billion containers have been returned via Return and Earn, helping to reduce eligible drink container litter volume by 44 per cent, to an all-time low of 37 per cent of the NSW litter volume stream.

Almost every second person (45 per cent) has used Return and Earn so far and 90 per cent say that they would use it again.

This is in addition to around 300 community, school, charity and sporting groups that have benefited by featuring on reverse vending machines across the state as donation partners, as well as many more that have fundraised by collecting drink containers from their communities.

Over the next two decades, Return and Earn is expected to result in:

  • 1.6 billion fewer drink containers littered
  • Almost 11 billion fewer containers ending up in landfill
  • 12.6 billion more drink containers being recycled.

Vinnies with Return and Earn

What this video case study of the journey from donation partner to a new enterprise


Tidy Towns Awards

The 2018 Keep Australia Beautiful NSW Tidy Towns Award winners for the new award sponsored by Return and Earn were announced on Saturday, 10 November 2018.

Four groups took out the inaugural Return and Earn litter prevention award category for their inspiring efforts to combat litter. These include the 1st Cobargo Scout Group, Bathurst Community Op Shop, Milton Ulladulla Ex-Servos Club and Resource Recovery Australia in Tuncurry.

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