Saving for Travels series: Return and Earn Scheme 4

Travelling costs, it doesn’t matter how you do it, whether it’s camping or staying in luxury hotels, you will need money to travel!

Lots of people think they can’t save for travel, it’s out of their reach. But if I, as a single mum, can do it so can you!

Each month I will show you what small things I do to help us save money so that we have more for our travel fund.

This month I will be writing about the Return and Earn Scheme.

On Decmeber the 1st 2018 the NSW government introduced their Return and Earn scheme. Other states have had it for years, but now it is time for NSW residents to be able to take their glass bottles and cans to a recycling point and earn 10cents per item!

It is a way of encouraging people to recycle by giving them an incentive …by  paying them!

Around about the same time as it was to be launched I read an article (read about it here)about a group of men who had fully funded their 2 month central Australia trip by collecting and returning bottles and cans that they collected along their journey… they made $10,000!!!  And cleaned up so much of our amazing country along the way!

Now this had me inspired. With a ski trip to Canada on the cards at the end of this year… what if we could fund at least one of our flights by Returning and Earning? I mean of course it would be amazing to earn as much as the guys in the article did, but a smaller goal doesn’t put so much pressure on us and considering we are a family that doesn’t drink much soft drink, or alcohol (unless it wine!) and never buy bottled water, we weren’t going to be contributing a lot from our own consumption. I also love the idea that along the way we would be cleaning up our environment, saving items from land fill and recycling.

How it works

Earn and return is a scheme established by the NSW government. It is also running in South Australia and the Northern Territory. How it works is that you can recycle glass bottles, aluminium cans, plastic bottles, small flavoured milk cartons and tetra packs / poppers. You cannot return wine bottles (damn!), milk cartons, glass food jars, juice bottles and large milk tetra packs. Items must be un crushed, with labels and fairly clean. The machines that you use reads the bar codes of the item and so if it can’t read it then it will more than likely dismiss it.

There are four types of collection points, Reverse Vending Machines, Over the counter collection points, Automated depots and Donation Stations . To be honest I have only ever used the Reverse Vending Machines collection points so can only tell you about them, but you can look on their website to find out more about the others. To find out where your closest collection point is click here and enter your post code. When you turn up there will likely be a line up! Yes, it is very popular at the moment! There are two different deposits, one for the cans/ plastic bottles/tetra packs and one for glass. I find that the cans etc deposit generally has a line up so I start on the glass (and if I have the kids with me they wait in the can line!)

To claim you have a couple of options. You can put it onto your Paypal account, you can donate to a charity or you can get vouchers which you can claim cash for or use on your groceries. To get it onto your Paypal account you download an app, scan your details at the collection point then start to return your items. To donate to a charity, you start putting in your items then press the Charity button when you are finished.. To get a voucher (which is what I do!) you just begin to deposit your items and at the end press voucher on the screen.

It is really easy to return your items…. You literally just put them into the corresponding hole onto the conveyer belt. If it has any problems with the items, it will stop and let you know what is wrong with a notification on the screen.

When you have finished returning all your items, press voucher button and a voucher will come out, then you go to the place that is listed on top to get your money. (it is generally close by) Then, if you are like me, you put it a designated bank account to save it up!

Check out this Video for more info: Click here


What you will need to help you

Containers or bags for the items you are returning… I reuse firewood hessian bags, large plastic tubs and buckets. These items I can reuse over and over unlike single use plastic bags.

Gloves. If you are collecting from public places or side of the road. They are also handy for when you are depositing the items so you don’t get sticky hands, even if they are your own bottles.

A grabber tool, Purchased from Kmart or Bunnings. Great for picking up from the ground so you don’t have to bend down or touch the bottle/cans.

Hand sanitiser… no matter where your items have come from you will want to clean your hands after you have deposited them into the machine.

I also carry a small bag in my hiking pack and handbag just in case I come across some cans etc while I am walking.


Tip out all fluid…sometimes the machine doesn’t like the weight.

Separate items…. Having two different containers of your recyclables makes it so much easier when you go to deposit them.

Don’t put hand in too far…The machine doesn’t like it and will tell you so!

Try again if rejected… I found many times that I machine will take an item on a second or even third time after being rejected.

Try plastic bottles and cans even if they are a little crushed… I have had some go through even with no label.

Be very aware of your surroundings while collecting… especially on the side of the road.

Wear enclosed shoes and gloves if collecting in bush / side of the road… you don’t want to get injured or bitten by something. ( I have come across plenty of spiders and a snake!!)

Where to collect from.

Your home cupboard /home recycle bin.

Work place

Grandmas place or anyone else that doesn’t want to return and earn.

Side of the road especially where there is bush.


After large public gatherings

Sporting fields

Camping grounds


General waste bins – not recycle bins.(this is something that I used to feel a unsure about., until recently I saw a short piece by Tim Silverton from Take 3 for the Sea (check it out here), who pointed out that anything that is in the general waste goes straight to landfill NOT recycled. So, I suppose by doing this you are saving them from landfill …and that is a good thing!)


What I have learnt so far.

Many many people are tossers!!! I cannot believe how much rubbish including bottles and cans are thrown onto the side of the road or left at the park or sporting grounds. They don’t want to have rubbish in their cars (that they can dispose of appropriately when they get home) but don’t mind rubbishing our beautiful Australian environment! I can defiantly see how those men collected $10000 worth of bottles and cans on one of the main arterial roads in Australia.

People don’t finish their drinks!!! A lot of people throw out the cans or bottles still with drink in them… some a practically full!

A lot of people are drinking alcohol in their cars …. while either a passenger or driving. (hopefully a passenger…).

As a society we drink a lot from plastic or glass.

Lots of people don’t recycle, they will put their cans in the general waste bin rather than the recycle bins that are right next to it! Also in a lot of places I have discovered lack of Recycling bins…or any bins in general!

Lots of people are getting into Return and Earn … which is awesome!

Wow!!! That was a long post… there was a lot to cover!

I hope that I helped you understand what Return and Earn is and how you can potentially save money by being part of it!

Even if you only return what you use in your own household you are going have some money for your next trip, and that can only be a good thing! But cleaning up our beautiful country is even better!

Does your Country / State have a similar scheme?

Do you participate in the Return and Earn program?

Safe Travels



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4 thoughts on “Saving for Travels series: Return and Earn Scheme

  • Kirsty Russell

    We’re saving for an OS trip in 2020 and we’ve been trying to work out our budget and look for ways to save more money. This is such a timely post for me – thanks for sharing (off to share with my husband now!)

  • Denyse

    I sure do understand a lot more about it now thanks to you.
    When I was a kid in the 1950s softdrink bottles were returnable to the local shop and I spent the money on lollies at said shop. My grandfather would save the bottles for me and my brother.
    I also remember can recycling which we contributed to as a way to fund raise for the scouts in our area.

    Now this. Can only be a good thing!

    Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek 4/52. Next Week is the FIRST photo-centred prompt (no topic!) called #ShareYourSnaps. Looking forward to seeing everyone’s photos every 5th week this year!