The New South Wales Container Deposit Scheme, Return and Earn, has collected over 4.8 billion eligible drink containers. As Network Operator to the Scheme, TOMRA Cleanaway uses real-time data to ensure uninterrupted access to return points and seamless collections, backed by state-of-the-art sorting and processing infrastructure.

Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs) are the backbone of Return and Earn. RVMs are available 7 days a week, between 7 am to 10 pm, in most instances. RVMs represent nearly half of the collection points available and account for a staggering 80% of all bottles and containers returned.

Its popularity and ease-of-use mean that RVMs see a lot of traffic, which requires regular clearances to prevent downtime. This is achieved through a sophisticated live data network provided through TOMRA Connect, that allows us to monitor bin levels, averaging 97.5% uptime for access.

How real-time data makes a difference

Real-time data provided by TOMRA Cleanaway enables:

Optimised collections and routing

At its very simplest, the live data collection feed provided through the TOMRA Connect system allows TOMRA Cleanaway to monitor the RVMs for potential capacity and technical issues, reducing machine downtime. This allows us to be proactive, performing an average of 2,200 clearances daily for 325 RVMs located across NSW, backed by a fleet of over 200 trucks.

Strategic return point locations

The data provided by the same network also helps identify collection point opportunities. Locations with high individual bulk drop-offs may be candidates for Automated Depots, while high foot traffic locations may benefit from additional RVMs or collection points in the vicinity. This allows the NSW State Government to offer NSW citizens a world-class container deposit scheme with high levels of access backed by solid, reliable data.

Boomerang Alliance notes that the NSW Government’s approach to working directly with the Network Operator (TOMRA Cleanaway) has resulted in better than expected coverage, with 1 collection point for every 11,000 people.

Convenience and ease-of-use

The live data feed is also connected to the Return and Earn website and myTOMRA App via an API, helping consumers find the nearest available collection point and access live availability. An intuitive interface displays the chosen RVM’s status in real-time, whether it’s open, almost full, or outside operational hours. In terms of receiving their refunds at an RVM, consumers can also choose to redeem digital vouchers or donate their earnings to a specific charity, supporting their favourite charity while recycling.

 Reporting transparency and efficiency

The data on the containers collected allows the Scheme Coordinator for Return and Earn, Exchange for Change, to verify that the containers being collected are eligible and covered under the Container Deposit Scheme as soon as a container is put through an RVM, enabling NSW to be the single jurisdiction with a container deposit scheme that has real-time active fraud prevention.

This data collection has also allowed the NSW EPA and National Litter Index to attribute the rates of eligible drinks containers found in the litter to a 57% drop within the first eighteen months of Return and Earn’s implementation.

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

Facebook: @returnandearn

Instagram: @returnandearnnsw

Twitter: @NSWGovCDS


Contact us to learn more about our holistic container deposit network management, partnership opportunities and how TOMRA Cleanaway is delivering circular economy solutions.

This article first appeared on Cleanaway’s Sustainable Future Hub.