When you recycle your eligible bottles and cans through Return and Earn, the material that is used to make the bottles and cans stay in use for as long as possible and are turned into new products, rather than ending up in landfill or polluting waterways.
The scheme has already more than halved the number of drink containers littering our parks, waterways, or ending up in landfill compared to before the scheme was launched in December 2017.
What happens to containers returned through Return and Earn?
Have you ever wondered what happens to the containers once they are returned through the scheme?
All containers returned through Return and Earn are recycled. The containers are picked up from the return points and trucked to a sorting facility where the containers are processed depending on the material type. Cans are crushed and baled into a giant cube, glass bottles are crushed into small particles called cullet; and plastic bottles are sorted by type and colour and shredded into smaller flakes before being turned into pellets.
The giant cubes of Aluminium cans are melted, rolled into sheets, and sent to manufacturers to be turned into new cans or other products – some even go to make up aeroplane parts!
Glass cullet is melted and mixed with raw materials before being blown into a new glass bottle and sent to drink companies.
The plastic pellets are melted down, moulded and blown into new plastic bottles, ready to be bought be retailers.
The new bottles and cans made from the recycled materials are filled by the beverage companies, labelled, capped, and ready to be consumed.
By using the recycled material from Return and Earn, we save water, energy, and landfill, as well as reducing the carbon emissions that would be used if new raw materials were used instead. This conservation contributes to a more sustainable and efficient economy.
Keeping materials in Australia
The purity and quality of the material from Return and Earn plays a crucial role in establishing local recycling facilities so most of the key materials stay in Australia. A key milestone was the opening of the Circular Plastics Australia plant in Albury, NSW, in March 2022. This state-of-the-art PET plastic recycling facility is a joint venture between waste industry and beverage industry partners and is the largest of its kind in Australia.
The facility reprocesses 100% of the PET (one of the materials that make up plastic containers) collected through the Return and Earn network of over 600 return points and uses the materials to remake new bottles and other food-grade plastic packaging.
All glass collected through the Return and Earn network is also being reprocessed in Australia and contributes to the growing demand of locally sourced glass to use in making new bottles and other products.
Having facilities in Australia means that the cycle of making a new container from the recycled material is fast. Plastic bottles can be back on the shelf in as little as six weeks and glass bottles in four weeks. Now that’s recycling at its best.
Do you recycle?
It’s easier than ever to recycle your empty containers through Return and Earn. We have over 600 return points across Australia, and we continue to work with businesses and local councils to identify more sites.
Every container counts – recycling is an important way to reduce the load on our natural resources and keep valuable waste on the path to being remade into new products and used again. These small acts can make a big impact.
If you’re not interested in returning the containers, consider leaving them out for others in your neighbourhood that are collecting them, or donate them to a charity or community group who is fundraising through the scheme. If you are unable to give them away, place your empty drink containers in your yellow lid recycle bin.
For more information about Return and Earn, and to find your nearest return point visit returnandearn.org.au
Case Study: Sharing the dignity through recycling
Semi-retiree Wendy Pluckrose from the far north NSW coast has supported Share the Dignity for years, so when she discovered Return and Earn it seemed an obvious way to raise some extra funds as well as protect the environment.
Share the Dignity is a women’s charity in Australia, that works to make a real difference in the lives of those experiencing homelessness, fleeing domestic violence, or doing it tough.
Wendy has installed bins at home and at local shops and restaurants to collect eligible drink containers. Most days she collects between 100 – 500 containers, and in the last year has raised nearly $3,500 from around 35,000 containers recycled through Return and Earn.
“Return and Earn is just free money!” Wendy said. “It’s a little bit of effort, but it makes a big difference.”
With the containers collected so far, not only is the refund going towards buying women’s sanitary products to women experiencing hardships, but it has also contributed to protecting the environment.
By recycling 35,000 containers to be remade into new containers rather than using virgin materials, the environmental savings calculated by the Impact Calculator include 206,000 litres of water; 46 gigajoules of energy that equates to six months of energy consumption for a household; and 2,100 kilograms of material entering landfill. The carbon emissions avoided equates to keeping two cars off the road for 18 months.
To learn more about Return and Earn, head to their website.
Images: Return and Earn.
This is a sponsored article produced in partnership with Return and Earn.