Please be aware of increased cyber-attacks attempting to take advantage of the COVID-19 emergency. While Cleanaway’s security has not been compromised, please click here for information on how to prevent email fraud.

Delivering a world-class collections network for NSW’s Return and Earn

TOMRA Cleanaway delivers a world class container deposit network, managed in real time, ensuring efficient and convenient customer access.

Industry Updates

October 7, 2019


As a litter reduction initiative, Return and Earn encourages correct disposal of drinks containers which were previously a common litter item.


As a litter reduction initiative, Return and Earn encourages correct disposal of drinks containers which were previously a common litter item.

Updated: December 2019

CEO TOMRA CleanawayMore than 2.4 billion eligible drink containers have been returned since the commencement of New South Wales’ (NSW) Container Deposit Scheme – Return and Earn.

At Waste Expo 2019 in Victoria, James Dorney, CEO of TOMRA Cleanaway, the Network Operator of the NSW Scheme, provided an overview of the key achievements of the scheme, and opportunities for further improvement as the second anniversary approaches.

By James Dorney – CEO TOMRA Cleanaway

NSW’s Return and Earn has demonstrated significant growth over the past 12 months. In a June 2019 survey of NSW citizens over 80% of respondents voiced their support for the scheme with more than half of them using Return and Earn regularly.

Through the efforts of residents and businesses in NSW, over 1.5 billion containers have been returned in 2019 alone and we estimate that 3 billion containers will be collected in total by the end of the year.

Supporting these volumes requires scale and reach, as provided by TOMRA Cleanaway through our investment in a world-class container deposit network, managed in real time, while ensuring efficient and convenient customer access.


Convenient, accessible collection points

A key ingredient to a successful collections network is providing easy access to return points. To this end, the convenient and strategically located reverse vending machines (RVMs) form the backbone of the Return and Earn collections network. These self-service machines are a great way to return smaller quantities of containers, up to 500 in any one transaction. Positioned in customer-centric locations that leverage citizens existing behaviours, such as shopping centre carparks, our RVM sites offer a service level of more than 95% availability 15 hours per day, seven days per week.

Over-the-counter return points, hosted by partners such as Vinnies has also proven to be popular with the community. As of June 2019, Vinnies has processed more than 42 million containers through its bulk container deposit centres, known as Automated Depots (ADs) and over-the-counter collections at selected retail shops.

Automated Depots have continued to play a role in processing bulk container volumes at high speed. ADs have been opened strategically across the state in areas such as Newcastle, Wagga Wagga and most recently in Grafton, bringing the total number of ADs within our network to 25.

Altogether, TOMRA Cleanaway has deployed a network of 645 return points across NSW Return and Earn Container Deposit Scheme including RVMs, ADs and over-the-counter sites.


State-of-the-art sorting and processing infrastructure

Cleanaway’s network of more than 200 trucks and drivers service between 2,200 to 3,000 clearances a day, delivering containers to Cleanaway’s Eastern Creek Container Sorting Facility for further processing.

This state-of-the-art facility includes a $7 million investment in plant and machinery, making use of TOMRA Sorting Solutions scanning technology to separate the various material streams.

The clean, source separated material is a highly valued commodity stream with tremendous potential to be reused in remanufacturing. After being sorted and baled, 100% of all materials that come through the facility are sent to recyclers to be turned into new products.


Delivering on the triple bottom line of sustainability

As a litter reduction initiative, Return and Earn encourages correct disposal of drinks containers which were previously a common litter item, achieving a 57% reduction in drinks container litter in just 18 months of operation.

Additional ticks for the economic and environmental bottom lines are achieved when recycled containers become part of a circular economy, extending the use of existing materials, reducing reliance on natural resources while stimulating the domestic recycling economy. TOMRA Cleanaway’s delivery of Return and Earn has also resulted in the direct employment of more than 700 citizens, with a large number of these jobs in regional NSW.

Return and Earn has also delivered significant social benefits to the community with over 350 community groups and charities direct beneficiaries of Return and Earn donations since the scheme launched. Many community groups and individuals also use Return and Earn for informal fundraising or to supplement their income. By participating in the network as collection point operators, social enterprises such as Vinnies, Hoxton’s, Citizen Blue and Resource Recovery Australia have returned benefits to their broader stakeholders.

TOMRA Cleanaway is proud of what we have achieved to date, in partnership with the NSW Government and scheme coordinator Exchange for Change. We look forward to even more participation from the citizens of New South Wales, who are the principal stakeholders of Return and Earn.

For more information about Return and Earn, visit NSW EPA’s Return and Earn site and social channels:

Facebook: @returnandearn (
Instagram: @returnandearnnsw
Twitter: @NSWGovCDS

James spoke at Waste Expo Australia 2019 on “NSW Return and Earn: Towards 3 billion collections”. Waste Expo is the largest free to attend conference and exhibition for the waste management and wastewater treatment industries bringing together over 4,000 customers and suppliers from around Australia and beyond.

Contact us to learn more about how we make a sustainable future possible through our partnerships with government, industry and communities across Australia.