NSW Government Return and Earn container deposit scheme delivers just two sites to region

Long trip: MidCoast Council residents who chose to take part in the Return and Earn scheme must take their collected containers to Forster or Tuncurry.
Long trip: MidCoast Council residents who chose to take part in the Return and Earn scheme must take their collected containers to Forster or Tuncurry.

Only two Return and Earn container deposit scheme sites have been set up in the 10,000 square kilometre MidCoast Council local government area and they are in the neighbouring towns of Forster and Tuncurry.

The 90,000 people who call the MidCoast region home must collect empty 150ml to three litre drink containers and drive to Forster or Tuncurry if they want to return and earn 10 cents per bottle, with the cost of travelling to either site making it economically unviable for people outside of the Great Lakes area to take part in the NSW government scheme. Meanwhile, around 80,000 residents in the Port Macquarie-Hastings local government area have access to four sites in the much smaller 3600 square kilometre area.

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Stockland in Forster has a reverse vending machine that can take a maximum of 500 bottles per transaction and Resource Recovery Australia at Tuncurry Waste Management Centre is an over-the-counter collection point.

Lee Mullaly from Forster Keys is one Great Lakes resident who is unhappy with the way the Return and Earn scheme is working.

“After costs have gone up, around $6 a case of beer, my family has religiously been collecting bottles and cans,” Lee said.

“I tried to return these items to Stocklands Forster and get our rebate, at 7.45am, only to find that there was a line up of people trying to do the same. 

“But, the both machines were full. This was my fourth attempt to return these items.

It's frustrating to think that we are paying for this scheme that is failing, and people trying to do the 'right' thing are driving around with a boot full of sticky bottles and no rebate.

Lee Mullaly

The NSW government decision to introduce the Return and Earn scheme on December 1 saw price hikes of up to 15 cents per bottle as retailers acted to pass on the cost of the scheme to consumers. MidCoast residents must pay the increased prices but can only secure the 10 cents per bottle refund if they transport the items to the Forster or Tuncurry sites, or travel further north to the sites in the Port Macquarie-Hastings local government area.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) this week announced that 18 million containers had been returned in NSW through the deposit scheme and revealed the top three busiest sites in the 24 hours leading up to New Year’s Eve were Emerton, with 32,586 bottles returned, Mt Hutton, 27,813 and Wagga Wagga with 26,042. The statistics were celebrated, “not only are people collecting the 10 cents deposit and the amount of money being donated to charities through reverse vending machines is growing, but cans and bottles continue to be removed from the NSW litter stream.”

The MidCoast Council area is poorly served by the NSW government's Return and Earn container recycling scheme. The map reveals no sites in the Manning Valley and Gloucester areas of the local government area. Further north, Port Macquarie residents have access to four sites.

The MidCoast Council area is poorly served by the NSW government's Return and Earn container recycling scheme. The map reveals no sites in the Manning Valley and Gloucester areas of the local government area. Further north, Port Macquarie residents have access to four sites.

In response to questions by the Manning River Times, the EPA advised the scheme operator TOMRA Cleanaway was “busily working with local businesses and the State Member for Myall Lakes, Stephen Bromhead, who has been a passionate advocate for the continued rolout of the Return and Earn scheme in regional NSW.”

“TOMRA Cleanaway is finalising collection point locations which will be announced as they are finalised. TOMRA Cleanaway is also working through the list of businesses and groups that have an expressed an interested in being involved in the scheme.”

​For more information on the scheme, a map of collection points and a list of eligible drink containers, visit: www.returnandearn.org.au.