How Return and Earn became a recycling success

The NSW Return and Earn program has seen over four billion containers recycled since 2017 through the scheme.

According to Environment Minister Matt Kean, the program’s design enabled it to deliver tangible environmental, social and economic benefits to NSW, including more than $10.4 million paid to not-for-profits and charities via donations.

“The latest research shows 75 per cent of residents have now participated in Return and Earn – this is a phenomenal achievement in less than three years,” Kean said.

“It also highlights the importance of community-based return point operators like local newsagencies, corner stores and post offices.”

Job opportunities

Return and Earn has provided opportunities for local business to get on board and realise the potential for commercial opportunities and local job creation.

In turn, local businesses have improved customer access by increasing the number of return points.

Kean said that the benefits of the scheme for the environment and to the individual are clear: less material ending up as litter or landfill while being rewarded for each container returned.

“Benefitting from being part of the scheme are social enterprises like Vinnies which have set up their own return points and collected over 100 million containers.

“This has created jobs for many people within communities, including those with disabilities and the long-term unemployed,” he added.

The network of return points in NSW currently consists of 245 over-the-counter return points and 27 automated depots, alongside the 325 reverse vending machines.

 

$10 million grants for NSW solar panel and battery storage

The NSW Government is investing $10 million to help improve environmental performance by diverting end-of-life solar panel systems from landfill, with the first round of grants now open.

Although current waste volumes are relatively low, this emerging waste stream is expected to rapidly increase over the next decade as installed systems reach their end-of-life.

Waste stream expected to grow

In NSW it is forecast that this waste stream could generate up to 10,000 tonnes per year by 2025 and up to 71,000 tonnes per year by 2035.

EPA Director Circular Economy Kathy Giunta said the investment in recycling through this Circular Solar grants program would help NSW meet its commitment of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

“While current amounts of waste are low, now is the time to invest in developing systems for collecting and recycling these valuable resources like scarce and rare metals, including lithium batteries.

“We want to recycle and re-use the materials in solar panels and battery systems as NSW transitions towards cleaner energy and this program is an important step in building a productive circular economy in NSW.

“It will see NSW well placed to manage waste solar systems over the coming years and will stimulate much needed job creation in the solar power and recycling sectors,” Giunta said.

The NSW Government is inviting Expressions of Interest for grants to run trial projects that increase the collection, reuse and recycling of solar panel and battery storage systems. Applications for projects that trial whole of supply chain approaches to collecting and reusing and/or recycling can be made until 17 September 2020.

$2 million is available in this funding round, with the remaining funding to be made available following evaluation of this EOI process.

For more information visit https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/working-together/grants/infrastructure-fund/circular-solar-trials-expression-of-interest or email infrastructure.grants@epa.nsw.gov.au.