The NSW Government’s container recycling scheme called “Return and Earn” launched in the Mountains today [Friday December 1], but the local MP said the roll-out has been “botched” and is akin to a Seinfeld episode.
Only two Mountains locations have been designated in the initial roll-out – one is listed (incorrectly) as an Indian restaurant in Katoomba, the other a petrol station in East Blaxland.
“It’s very disappointing the reverse vending machines that were promised have not been rolled out in time and only half the collection points are up and running,” Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle said.
“A collection point at a local restaurant is not what people had in mind, I think, when the scheme was proposed. I suspect it will wear thin for restaurant owners and small businesses … as people roll up with garbage bags full of old bottles and cans at all hours of the day seeking refunds.”
Retail partner Woolworths supermarket stores was expected to host, or be close to, some 180 of the Return and Earn sites. Ms Doyle said she could not understand why the Mountains sites were not in more convenient or frequent locations.
“There is a Seinfeld episode about Kramer and Newman driving across the state with a mail truck full of bottles to get their refund. It was high-farce on television, but that’s what we’re being condemned to.
“What we need are reverse vending machines in all major shopping precincts to make this scheme work as intended. Lithgow residents face an 80km round trip to Katoomba or 120km to Bathurst and back. Likewise, a Woodford resident has a 40km round trip.”
Ms Doyle said the Labor party was a strong supporter of the scheme but the environment minister had “completely botched the roll-out”. The Shooters and Fishers Party also criticised the scheme labeling the minister “a Christmas Grinch” for not delivering more rural collection points.
The two Mountains locations are listed on the official website [www.returnandearn.org.au] as Anki’s Indian Restaurant on 54 Waratah Street, Katoomba and United Petrol on Old Bathurst Rd, East Blaxland. They are over the counter collection points.
Anki’s owner, Ankur Saharma, said he joined the scheme because “back home [in Jaipur, India] everything is thrown on the street which is not good ... I saw this recycling [idea] and I liked it.”
Mr Saharma said the collection point is actually at his other business – a small convenience store called “the Handy Store” at the corner of Victoria and Camp Streets.
“They must have taken the name from the ABN ... I will call right now to fix it,” he told the Gazette. He said his wife had received “about 10 to 15 bottles in a bag already” at the handy store after they put signs out the front. They were giving cash refunds. Their business is being credited three cents a container.
More than 160 million drink containers end up as litter in NSW costing more than $162 million to clean up. To get the 10 cent a bottle refund, deposit most 150ml to 3 litre containers (including beer bottles) that are empty, unbroken and with labels in tact. Milk, cordial and wine and spirit bottles can not be returned and should go in the kerbside recycling bin.
Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said 250 collection points were launched on December 1 and more will be finalised.
“This is the first step in rolling out more than 500 collection points across NSW," Ms Upton said.
People can choose to donate their refund directly to selected charities or transfer it to their designated account.
Ms Doyle said businesses, bottlers and the public were already paying the price for the scheme but it was next to impossible to get their money back.
Even one government MP, Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, has criticised the scheme saying it was “frustrating that people were paying more for their drinks and they can’t get refunds because we haven’t got the collection points”.
Beer drinkers are paying at least $3 extra a carton to fund the container deposit scheme.
The Cancer Council, St Vincent de Paul, Surf Life Saving NSW and Planet Ark will be the first charities featured on reverse vending machines to benefit.