BY JOHN MOYLE
You’ve just cleaned up after the barbie and stacked all the long necks with the intention of cashing them in at the nearest Container Deposit Scheme bottle depot, except, where the hell is it?
Since 1st December 2017, NSW residents have been able to return their drink containers to obtain a 10 cent refund that can be redeemed as a donation to charity, a retail refund to be spent in store, or a digital refund that transfers the money into a PayPal account.
Deposits may be made via reverse vending machines, over-the counter collection points, automated depots and donation stations.
The aim of the NSW Environment Protection Authority scheme, now branded as Return and Earn, is to reduce litter across the state by 40 per cent by 2020, with the companies that supply eligible drink containers bearing the cost of running the program and the 10 cent refunds.
“The NSW container deposit scheme has been widely embraced by the NSW community with more than 58 million containers already collected at an average of 1.5 million containers each day,” a spokesperson for the EPA said.
Operating the NSW scheme is the Norwegian multi-national recycler TOMRA, and Cleanaway, an Australian company responsible for collecting the bottles for processing at a sorting centre in Western Sydney.
From an initial 360 collection points across NSW, the EPA are aiming for more than 800 reverse vending machines to be rolled out across the state.
In October 2017 Woolworths was announced as the scheme’s first retail partner, with the arrangement eventually seeing up to 180 reverse vending machines in metro and regional stores across NSW.
Shortly after this announcement, Coles, Aldi and IGA also entered the scheme, while the Minister for the Environment, Ms Gabrielle Upton, named the Cancer Council, St Vincent de Paul Society, Surf Life Saving NSW and Planet Ark as the first four Return and Earn nominated charities
Eventually community and sporting groups, schools and other not-for-profit organisations will be able to register their interest.
So far it all sounds great – the state government putting forward a worthy scheme getting litter out of the system, and one that is supported by big retailers with charities big and small benefitting, not to mention the small earn into your pocket if you so choose.
That is, until you have another look at the roll out that has been littered by its own mismanagement and miscalculations.
Firstly, the launch of the scheme was lukewarm on arrival, no big television, radio or print campaigns to either explain or enthuse, and no clear messages for the locations or payment options.
Then there is the cost.
For example, keen eyed shoppers will have noticed that generic brand water in the supermarket went from 75 cents to 90 cents a bottle overnight, with no explanation.
As for that slab of beer you drank at the barbie, it suddenly jumped in price by $4, while a six pack went up by $1.
Statewide, the scheme will cost an estimated $50 million annually, or $20 per household, an impost not discussed or explained to the citizens of NSW.
There is also the cost to small businesses such as Bevco, the makers of Orchy fruit juice, who are being slugged $35,000 to register its line of product containers with the scheme, while the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance claims that one Central Coast family operated business is facing a $75,000 bill.
But none of these issues are as great as the fact is that few in the community know where their nearest donation point is located.
Return and Earn’s digital map highlighting collection points is meant to be as easy as entering a post code.
Do so at your peril, as the site is highly inaccurate and misleading, and is just as likely to give you a non-existent collection point as an active one..
At the beginning of last week, when City Hub was researching this article, the site listed two places in the Potts Point area as collection points, complete with details that they were over the counter depots limited to 100 bottles.
The first was the Wayside Chapel, which when contacted expressed surprise that they were listed.
“We haven’t been provided with any vending machine or information and the resources that come with it,” a spokesperson for the Wayside Chapel said. “We might come back to them when they are more organised.”
Another local collection point listed was plastics recyclers Globelet, who said “Sorry, we are not involved with this at all.”
In Kings Cross, Peter Sooper, who runs a busy bottle shop said, “I don’t know what to say to people when they ask where to return bottles to.”
One location that did score a hit with Return and Earn’s site is Palacio restaurant in Petersham.
Palacio’s manager Carlos is enthusiastic about the program when he said “We are taking about 1300 bottles a week and I like being part of a recycling program… that’s it.”
Returning to Return and Earn, the site also suggests that Burwood Deluxe Carwash is a registered depot, except that they want a reverse vending machine or they are going to opt out of the program.
Manager Gary said, “I’ve told Cleanaway that I can’t take any more bottles and that they need to put a machine here, but I’ve heard nothing.”
Coca Cola Amatil were the first major soft drink manufacturer to join the program, but they too have their reservations about how well it is being rolled out.
A spokesperson for Coca Cola Amatil told City Hub,”We’ve been supporters of a cost-effective, well run CDS for some time, but it is evident that setting it up was a major administrative and logistical exercise for government.
“We join with the community in urging the government and network operator to do all they can to keep those collection points rolling out.”
The scheme also needs to address the requirement that all eligible bottles have their labels intact.
Everyone knows that labels have a habit of falling off in the ice slurry that keeps them cool for the barbie.
As City Hub goes to print the Return and Earn website tells me that 73,324,991 bottle have been collected so far, raising the question of whether or not we can believe them?
Cleanaway did not respond to City Hub for this story.