It’s been four years since the launch of the Return and Earn initiative in NSW, with more than 6.5 billion containers having been returned for recycling over that time.

This equates to 595,500 tonnes of materials recycled and more than $650 million in refunds going back into the community.

Danielle Smalley, CEO of scheme coordinator Exchange for Change, said that Return and Earn would continue to bring environmental, social and economic returns to the people of NSW.

“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,” she said.

Return and Earn is a partnership between the NSW Government, scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator TOMRA Cleanaway.

James Dorney, CEO, TOMRA Cleanaway, which manages the network of 620 plus return points, 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 really seen how important Return and Earn has become to raise money for community groups.

“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,” he said.

Return and Earn is also being used 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,” Smalley said.

“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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