Across Australia, nearly every state has implemented a 10 cent refund scheme for bottles and eligible drink containers. The return and earn scheme is designed to incentivize people to recycle more and get paid for doing so.
The scheme started originally in South Australia and has remarkable success. EPA South Australia state that 79.9% of bottles eligible for a refund are now returned; that’s equivalent to $58 million dollars in refunds, paid back into the pockets of people like you and me. Figures also show that only 2.9% of eligible bottles end up in landfill; an incredible accomplishment for the environment.
Here is everything you need to know about return and earn schemes across all Australian States.
How the return and earn bottle refund scheme works
Return and earn schemes operate on the ‘polluter pays’ methodology; those who throw away eligible bottles and fail to recycle, forfeit their right to the 10 cent refund. This, in turn, benefits someone else, who is willing to seek the 10c refund.
As such, eligible cans, cartons, plastic bottles and glass bottles can be returned to scheme approved recycling locations across the State and the person doing so will be paid 10 cents per eligible return.
There are two primary ways to return bottles for a refund:
Bottle refund machines
Automated bottle refund machines (often situated in easily accessible car parks and locations) allow you to bring cans and bottles and deposit them into the machine for an instant cash refund, often via Paypal or credits to your account.
Bottle refund machines are ideal for those who wish to remain discreet and private about their bottle refunds. This is my preferred method given you do not need to interact with anyone or count bottles in front of other people.
Bottle refund locations and shops
Certain stores, shops and businesses can opt to act as a bottle refund location. They allow return and earn customers to bring their bottles, often at set daily times, to have them counted and refunds paid. Your money is handed directly to you, often in cash.
This method often requires you to count your containers in front of the shopkeeper and other customers. For me, in a very shallow way, I feel awkward about being seen to do this. As such, I always opt for the automated bottle refund machines.
States that participate in bottle and container refund schemes:
Return and earn schemes are managed locally in each State. There is no Australia wide or federal government initiative. As such, it’s up to each State to decide whether or not to offer 10 cent bottle refunds.
States that offer return and earn schemes:
- NSW – Return and Earn
- NT – Container Deposit Scheme (CDS)
- SA – Container Deposit Scheme (CDS)
- ACT – Container Deposit Scheme (CDS)
States that have return and earn schemes opening soon:
- WA – Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) opening in 2020.
- QLD – Containers for change
States that do not offer return and earn schemes:
- TAS – return and earn scheme rejected by Government.
- VIC – return and earn previously live, but rescinded by Government.
Which containers are eligible for return and earn 10 refunds?
General rules of return and earn include:
- Look for the 10c logo on the container itself for confirmation.
- Containers must be 150ml to 3L in size.
- Glass, HDPE, PET, aluminium, steel or paperboard cartons allowed.
Types of containers you can return:
- Soft drink cans and bottles.
- Bottled waters (plastic and glass).
- Small sized flavoured milk drinks.
- Beer bottles, beer cans, cider bottles and cider cans.
- Sport drinks
- Alcoholic spirit-based mixers in cans or bottles.
What containers are exempt from return and earn?
- Glass wine bottles.
- Spirits bottles.
- Juice bottles over 1L.
- Cordial bottles.
- Plain milk plastic containers.
- Flavoured milk containers over 1L.
Return and earn locations
Below is the definitive list of locations to return your bottles and cans for 10c refunds.
Return and earn locations in NSW
- 10c bottle recycling in NSW is simple. Visit Return&Earn for a list of return and earn locations that offer 10c bottle refunds.
Container deposit scheme locations in South Australia (SA)
- South Australian return and earn locations can be found on the EPA South Australia website.
Container deposit scheme locations in the ACT
- For 10c bottle refund locations in Canberra, visit the ACT CDS scheme website.
Container deposit depots in the Northern Territory (NT)
- For a list of bottle collection depots in Northern Territory that offer 10c refunds, visit NT EPA
10c refund locations in Queensland (QLD)
- For a list of 10 cent container and bottle refund locations in QLD, visit the Containers For Change website.
Making money from 10c bottle refunds
As a lifelong resident of NSW, I’ve always been ineligible for 10 cent bottle refunds. As a child, I was incredibly dismayed at my inability to profit from returning cans, bottles and drink containers. Some 30 years on, it’s now become a reality and I intend to capitalize on it.
Here are my tips and tricks to become super organised and routinely make money from your bottles and cans.
Batch process your 10c refund trips. Driving out to a return and earn location won’t be worth the petrol if you’re returning 5 cans. Aim to head to a bottle refund machine after accumulating a minimum of 100 items. Try and also make the visit to the bottle refund machine on the way to something else, as opposed to a stand-alone trip. For instance, my 10c bottle refund machine is near Bunnings; thus I wait until I need to go to Bunnings to make it worth my while.
Organise your cans and bottles efficiently. I have a plastic tub sitting in my laundry. I fill the tub throughout the week with bottles, cans and cartons. Once a week I take the tub out to my garage and methodically transfer the bottles and cans over into storage boxes in an organised fashion. This ensures my bottles and cans are perfectly lined up and ready for my future trip to the refund location.
Don’t crush cans. Return and earn locations do not accept crushed cans, so don’t make that mistake.
Get your extended family involved. The kids love it and the grandparents love to save the grandkids bottles. The more people involved, the more money you will earn, along with more fun the kids will have.