Coffs recycles over 98 million items through Return and Earn

More than 8,000 tonnes of Coffs Harbour rubbish has been saved from landfill through the Return and Earn scheme over the past four years. Photo: Emma Darbin.


THE Return and Earn recycling scheme has marked its 4th birthday, with the Coffs Harbour region recycling more than 98 million items over this time, equating to over 8,000 tonnes of rubbish which has escaped a future as landfill.

In the Bellingen Shire, more than 6.7 million items have been recycled equating to around 699 tonnes of rubbish.

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“In the four years since it was launched, litter reduction initiative Return and Earn has seen over 6.5 billion containers returned for recycling through its network of return points,” Danielle Smalley, CEO of scheme coordinator Exchange for Change said.

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

“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, scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator TOMRA Cleanaway.

TOMRA Cleanaway CEO James Dorney, 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,” Mr 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.”

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% of NSW schools surveyed are actively participating in Return and Earn.

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

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.

More information on Return and Earn is available at



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