If you are like me – you have probably wondered could you survive by just using the money you get to recycle cans and bottles.


Whether it is a dream of being away from the office – or just as a financial backup if all else went wrong. We ask in today’s blog – could you survive if you just recycle cans and bottles that you find?


Depending on what you read – the answer may be yes!


What is a return and earn scheme to recycle cans?

New South Wales has recently implement a container deposit scheme called Return and Earn.


Under this scheme – there are a number of machines throughout the state – where you can receive 10c for disposal of a relevant container.


From the program website we quote below:


“Most 150ml to three litre drink containers will be eligible for a 10 cent refund at an approved NSW collection point. Container materials that may be eligible for a refund include:

  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Aluminium
  • Steel
  • Liquid paperboard (cartons)

Containers should be empty, uncrushed, unbroken and have the original label attached. Wine, spirits, cordial and plain milk containers are generally not eligible.

If a container isn’t eligible for a refund, please use a recycling bin.”


This includes normal cans for fizzy drinks etc.


Can you collect enough cans to earn a living?


Doing some simple back of the envelope sums – the average Australian income in 2018 is  $1,567.90 per week (for full time workers according to the ABS.


Recycle cans


That would mean collecting and returing c.16000 cans a week – which sounds huge.


Of course – you could survive on a lot less than this – and tax etc would likely be different.


Are there any examples of people who live by recycling cans?


South Australia has operated similar schemes for many years – and there are examples of people who add to their income in this way – or even live mostly from recycling.


The ABC covered some of these people:


“Joan says she drops in on 15 companies and 15 local homes to collect their bottles and cans every week.”


“Every week I go out and do what I call my rounds, I do a small walk around the block to residents and then I do the strip along the main road of businesses, who keep them aside for me,” she says.


“I would average at least $50 a week, in the summer it’s more lucrative.


One man claims to make much more:


“Kevin goes out at midnight every night and collects cans from midnight until 8:00am when the depot opens, making between $70 and $90 a night, “more than enough to live off”.”


“I’m paying my rent from picking up bottles … you learn to leave the big bottles, and you just go for the smaller, lighter items, otherwise you’re just struggling for not much money.”




Kevin making up to $90 a day I think proves that you can survive by recycling.


I will try to remember this next time I am short of some money!



Check out a video below showing how the system works in NSW – and how to get started: