Waste Management In Action

From coordination to recycling: TOMRA-Cleanaway

The New South Wales Government’s Container Deposit Scheme offers a significant opportunity to educate the community about the value of recycling. TOMRA-Cleanaway explain the challenges behind orchestrating the game-changing scheme.

Coordinating New South Wales’ largest litter reduction initiative in history was never going to be easy, but one of Australia’s leading waste collection companies, Cleanaway, believes it has the winning edge.

In July, the NSW Government appointed the joint venture between Cleanaway and reverse-vending machine inventors, TOMRA, as the network operator for Return and Earn, the state’s Container Deposit Scheme. The joint venture will be responsible for establishing a network of more than 500 collection points across the state.

TOMRA-Cleanaway will provide handling, transport, processing, recycling and data services as part of Return and Earn in NSW. In this partnership TOMRA will provide technology, software and carry the investment for the technology provided. Cleanaway will provide logistics, sorting of collected material and act as a broker for the recyclable commodities.

Since the announcement, TOMRA-Cleanaway has been working feverishly to ensure the community, recycling and corporate sectors are ready for the scheme’s introduction in December.


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Materials taken from the collection points will be consolidated and baled.

Ken Donley, Chief Executive Officer of TOMRA-Cleanaway, says the opportunity to combine Cleanaway’s resource recovery experience with TOMRA, the international leaders in reverse vending technology, was a compelling offer. TOMRA’s experience in other container deposit markets meant NSW would be getting a proven and reliable system.

“Cleanaway’s local expertise and extensive footprint was unmatched in New South Wales,” he says.

“TOMRA’s research and development has made its sorting technologies the leaders in the field for recycling, sorting and reverse vending equipment.”

The network will be a combination of manual and automated collection points. It has been designed to capture as many containers as possible.

“We are working with many partners, including social enterprises, to establish sites that are conveniently placed and are easy to use. With a large number of automated sites, the experience for consumers will be intuitive and consistent, and hopefully fun and rewarding.”

With a track record of community engagement and education, Ken believes a key piece of the winning bid was Cleanaway’s experience in bringing behavioural change to the community. “The CDS is foremost a litter reduction campaign, and Cleanaway is excited to be such a significant part of it.

“As Clean-Up Australia’s national sponsor, we have an established commitment to addressing litter in the environment, and winning the CDS network operator role is another way we’re delivering on our mission to make a sustainable future possible.

“Many of the collection locations will be in places that people are visiting already – such as supermarkets and shopping centre car parks. It means that it’s just a small change to consumers’ habits, and the 10 cent refund serves as a small incentive to make that change.”

There’s also a need to educate the community around the collection methodology. “It is quite a different scheme to kerbside,” Ken says.

“We’ll be working to explain what items are accepted within the scheme and where they can be taken for a refund. The form containers are recycled in is different, too. For example, you don’t need to crush your bottles or cans, and in fact, they won’t be accepted if they are crushed.” he says.


Return and Earn will commence on 1 December of this year and will allow NSW residents to return empty beverage containers for a 10c refund when presented at a network operator collection point.

Most containers in the 150ml to three litre range are included, although wine bottles, plain milk and some juice containers will not be. Collection point locations are still in the process of being confirmed, but TOMRA-Cleanaway is targeting shopping centres, charity partners, waste depot sites and existing recycling centres across the state. Their location will be chosen based on convenience.  Automated collection points and depots will use TOMRA’s reverse vending machine technology to provide an electronic refund to consumers. Manual collection points will allow residents to deliver their bottles for a cash refund.

The state government’s goal is to reduce litter volume by 40 per cent by 2020. The NSW Government CDS discussion paper (State of NSW, 2015) notes that similar schemes have reduced litter internationally. In New York, USA, after one year of implementing a scheme, the city reduced its drink container litter by more than 70 per cent. This result was replicated in seven states in the USA that introduced CDS’ with a financial incentive.


Return and Earn has three distinct components. The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), representing the state government, has oversight of scheme.

The scheme coordinator, Exchange for Change, sits between the EPA and the network operator, TOMRA–Cleanaway. The scheme coordinator will collect the deposits from manufacturers and other suppliers and then pay the network operator, who will refund the deposit to consumers and take ownership of the redemption network.

The scheme coordinator and network operator are currently working together on verification and auditing to ensure system integrity.

Return and Earn will have checks and balances in place to help prevent fraud and to ensure the integrity of the scheme. Every single beverage container that is refunded will have to be individually counted and itemised at a collection point before a refund can be provided.

Reverse vending machines will be cashless and provide a refund through an app or a voucher to claim cash at a redemption partner site, such as a supermarket. Consumers who obtain their refund at a manual collection point may receive cash, or otherwise a similar cashless refund to that available at a reverse vending machine. Another feature of the reverse vending machines will be an option to donate the refund to registered charities, schools or local community groups.


Ken says material collected via the CDS is acknowledged as a clean and more highly prized commodity. By collecting higher volumes of better quality material, Return and Earn will spur investment in the recycling sector.

One of the unique aspects of the NSW scheme is that each item will be electronically scanned and counted, with material type recorded.

“Accepted materials such as glass, plastic, cans, and liquid paperboard will be single-filed through an identification unit that reads the material, type and shape, before sorting it at the back end,” Ken says.

Materials collected from the collection points will be consolidated and baled, to be ready for domestic or export sale.

The sorting made possible by the reverse vending machines delivers a competitive commodity rate in the market. For instance, the glass collected will contain fewer contaminants than in kerbside recycling.

Return and Earn will optimise the recovery of the eligible materials, particularly glass, which has faced challenges in its recyclability in Australia. Ken believes it will increase commodity prices, which will open up new interest in recycling.

“The CDS is designed to complement kerbside recycling and will provide the opportunity to collect and recycle a really clean stream of material. The CDS process of scanning every container ensures contaminants do not find their way into the stream.”CleanawayMediaShots-Coogee-Jul17_20170729DSC_6450

Featured image: 

L–R: David Clancy – Cleanaway GM NSW
Ken Donley – TOMRA-Cleanaway CEO
Markus Fraval – TOMRA Australia, Managing Director

Read the full story on page 46 of Issue 14. 

For more information click here. 


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