A novel way to return and earn. Photo: Addison Road Community Centre

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By Jefferson Lee

When Premier Gladys Berejiklian introduced the Return and Earn bottle and can recycling system for New South Wales there were critics of the system.

Six months into the program, I am here as your faithful City Hub delivery boy to give an update from the coal-face.
My involvement is more than superficial, as I confess I have become a true garbologist.

I’m not simply skimming for the ‘low hanging fruit’ of easy access coke cans and beer stubbies protruding from over-full yellow bins clogging the neighbourhood walkways once a week.

Nor merely casually collecting the endless disposable water bottles all with deceptive names like “spring water” this and “mountain valley” which spill out from the shopping centre and drive-in service station bins.

I’m the one who has gone the distance, sprawled on the footpath with the entire contents of a tipped-over bin spread over me like compost, choking on plastic bags which should not be in recycling bins in the first place.

Scrabbling through the bins also raises the question: why are Sydney-siders so averse to recycling properly?

With so much general garbage in yellow bins, and so many recyclables in red ones, local councils are threatening to abolish curb side colour coded bins altogether.

Perhaps consumer laziness would change if every time a council collector found an incorrectly filled bin a $10 fine was imposed, with a $50-100 fine for repeat offenders.

Maybe a “name and shame” list in the local paper would get a bit of pre-sorting happening.

But let’s steer the blame to the so-called corporate sector and the government too.

Despite claims they were going to get on board in a City Hub story last February, no Aldi drink containers can be recycled at the Tomra return and earn collection points.

Ditto water bottles from the 7-11 brand.

Most of the plastic water bottles I collect from bins are either full (unopened) or half consumed at best.

The motto of Australian Capitalism seems to be ‘I consume, therefore I am,’ yet we don’t even consume what we buy.

The Tomra system is stuffed for reasons other than its limited range of acceptable receptacles and consumer laziness.

It may have created an army of recyclers chasing everyone else’s unwanted drink containers, but there are still too few outlets and the machines are regularly full, with long delays waiting for the trucks from Cleanaway to empty the collection bins, causing frustration in crowded lines.

You can’t recycle milk containers, olive oil bottles, plastic liquid detergent or laundry bottles, shampoo bottles, jars of any description and a thousand other items that come in plastic, glass or aluminium cans.

Presumably they all go into land fill, are burnt, or crushed and wasted via local council dumps.

And while I’m on my soapbox, why on earth are we importing fancy glass bottles from Iceland, Peru, Greece, Fiji and dozens of other countries with plain water in them?

Anyone ever heard of a tap?