• L to R: James Dorney, CEO TOMRA Cleanaway; Ryan Buzzell, director TOMRA Cleanaway; David Clancy, director TOMRA Cleanaway; Danielle Smalley, CEO Exchange for Change.
    L to R: James Dorney, CEO TOMRA Cleanaway; Ryan Buzzell, director TOMRA Cleanaway; David Clancy, director TOMRA Cleanaway; Danielle Smalley, CEO Exchange for Change.

In the four years since its establishment, container deposit scheme Return and Earn has seen 650 billion containers returned for recycling through its network of collection points in NSW.

Return and Earn marked its fourth birthday this week, celebrating the success of the scheme to date, which has seen 595,500 tonnes of materials recycled and more than $650 million in refunds going back into the community. 

“Lined up end-to-end, that [650 billion] is enough containers to reach the moon and back,” said Danielle Smalley, CEO of scheme coordinator Exchange for Change. 

“And with three out of four adults in NSW having participated, these results highlight how collectively a small change in people’s routines can have a positive impact.” 

Return and Earn is a partnership between the NSW government, Exchange for Change, and network operator Tomra Cleanaway, which manages the network of 620+ return points.

James Dorney, CEO of Tomra Cleanaway, said alongside the environmental benefits of reducing litter and increasing recycling, the scheme provides ongoing social and economic benefits to local communities. 

“Over the past 18 months, as more traditional face-to-face fundraising methods have become limited, we’ve realty seen how important Return and Earn has become to raise money for community groups,” Dorney said.

“An incredible $28.4 million has been raised for community groups and not-for-profits via donations and fees for leasing return points. This figure doesn’t include the many informal container collection drives we see happening all over the state.”

Return and Earn is also being adopted in NSW schools to encourage students to recycle and to fundraise for school projects or charities.

A recent survey by the Australian Association of Environmental Educators (AAEE NSW) found 52 per cent of NSW schools surveyed are actively participating in the scheme. 

“We’re seeing schools use Return and Earn to fundraise for solar panels, veggie gardens, and to support worthwhile community causes,” said Smalley. 

“These initiatives, along with the great environmental outcomes of the scheme, are being used to show young people that together we can have a positive impact.”

Return and Earn curriculum-linked school resources have been developed in partnership with AAEE NSW, and provide practical ways for teachers to engage students on sustainability and recycling, and support their school’s participation in the scheme. 

The Return and Earn Impact Calculator launched recently highlights the impact individuals can make, calculating the energy, water, carbon and landfill savings from their container returns.

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