Much has been made of the unprecedented conditions experienced across NSW and Australia, and indeed globally, in 2020.  As we approach the end of the year, my preference is to focus on what has been achieved across Return and Earn and the many positive and inspiring stories and milestones reached. 

Despite the multiple disruptions which characterised the year, TOMRA Cleanaway saw first-hand how important our network of container deposit return points was to the people of NSW. The community voted with their containers throughout the course of the year and our network of return points for Return and Earn saw ever growing levels of participation and volumes.

The resilience and character shown across NSW through the COVID challenge has been inspiring, and this has certainly been true of the TOMRA Cleanaway team delivering Return and Earn.  I know first hand how proud, enthusiastic and passionate every member of the TOMRA Cleanaway team is, and likewise our Service partners at Cleanaway and TOMRA. Reflecting on the year, the size of the operational task to deliver this Network is astounding.

There have been over 500,000 clearances of RVMs through the year, and 10,000 bulk collections from Automated Depots. TOMRA’s maintenance team has attended RVM locations across the state more than 250,000 times to keep the service in top notch condition. The TOMRA Cleanaway call centre has received over 125,000 calls and thousands of emails from customers and partners across NSW. Our Audit and Compliance team has been very active through the year visiting all Return Points and undertaking over 550 site audits. The team at TOMRA Cleanaway love getting out and meeting with our return point partners, and supporting the charities, community groups and small businesses participating in Return and Earn.

One of my highlights (in a year where that hasn’t been much travel !) was a trip to visit a partner location at Broken Hill, and the opportunity to visit return points in Wagga, Griffith, Leeton, Hay, Balranald, Dareton, Wilcannia, Cobar, Nyngan and Dubbo (to name just a few) on the journey.

As Return and Earn has grown, so have the exceptional circular economy outcomes. The Scheme continues to generate a clean stream of non-contaminated product which is in high demand in multiple markets. As the world becomes increasingly circular, at times we have found ourselves struggling to keep up with the demand for the NSW CDS grade product! It is one of the many benefits delivered via the Return and Earn container deposit scheme and is reflected in the increasing rates of return for eligible containers. The future looks very bright in this space with multiple announcements in relation to the future of domestic reprocessing, headlined by the earlier in 2020 of the new Cleanaway/Asahi/PACT JV, establishing a plastics recycling facility in Albury.

Throughout the year, TOMRA Cleanaway continued to identify further innovations to expand and improve the scheme in NSW.  New return point types were established with Reverse Vending Centres rolled out in specific locations. In response to the COVID situation, RVMs had an update to initiate ‘touch-free recycling’ at all locations. Citizens using an RVM now need only handle the containers they take to the site to gain their container refund.

The network of Automated Depots continued to expand over the year providing further opportunities for participation. There are so many inspiring stories coming out of the automated depot and over the counter return points across the network.  During the year, an automated depot commenced operations in Dubbo, in western NSW. This automated depot is operated by a newly formed joint venture between Vinnies NSW and REDI.E, a local Indigenous employment and training organisation. In the north of the State, a new automated depot kicked off in Grafton, and is operated by a small local business. Both operations are providing employment opportunities in regional NSW, while increasing access and participation, and delivering positive environmental outcomes for Return and Earn.

Nothing can be achieved without the people and partnerships this Scheme is built upon. This Scheme is built on the positive and collaborative partnerships with Government via the NSW EPA, and also with the Scheme Coordinator, Exchange for Change. Our heartfelt thanks go to our partners we work closely with each day at both organisations.  

Our thanks also go out to every single citizen in NSW who has participated in the Scheme in 2020. Without Scheme users, Return and Earn would not be achieving such incredible milestones at the rate we are.

As Network Operator TOMRA Cleanaway is inspired and motivated to continue to deliver further improvement and opportunities for all citizens across the State, and remains focused and passionate about delivering even greater environmental and community outcomes for Return and Earn and the state of NSW in the year ahead.

On behalf of all of us at TOMRA Cleanaway, our best wishes go out for a safe and enjoyable Christmas and a fantastic 2021!


James Dorney, CEO, TOMRA Cleanaway