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Recycling rewarded in Sydney

Green Lifestyle

The City of Sydney is trialling reverse vending machines for people to deposit empty plastic bottles and cans.

reverse vending machine launch

Thumbs were up at the official launch of the reverse vending machine at Cirular Quay in Sydney! From left to right: The City of Sydney’s Director of Operations Garry Harding, founder of Envirobank Narelle Anderson, and 1994 Australian of the Year and founder of Clean-Up Australia, OAM Ian Kiernan.

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This morning, the City of Sydney officially launched a trial of two reverse vending machines that give people rewards for recycling empty plastic bottles and cans.

The machines – located on Alfred St at Circular Quay, and on Dixon Street Mall in Haymarket – aim to raise awareness of the current low rates of recycling that capture just 42 per cent of bottles and cans in the state.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore describes the machines as “vending machines with a twist that will encourage Sydneysiders to be even better at recycling plastic bottles and aluminium cans.”

Garry Harding, the City’s Director of Operations, said that “every minute across Australia, an average of 15,000 bottles and cans are left on the street of finish up in landfill.”

“Many people do the right thing and dispose of their bottles in recycling bins, but the reality is that many people don’t do that," he said.

"Whether they’re aware of the environmental damage or not, part of this campaign is to raise awareness to do the right thing and to make people aware of the terrible damage to our environment.”

“Just over the last three days, with this machine here [at Circular Quay], and the one in Haymarket, about 10,000 cans and bottles have been fed into these machines. That’s 10,000 bottles and cans that we’ve removed from our streets, so after just three days it’s been an enormous success.”

Harding adds that, “people who deposit bottles and cans in the reverse vending machines are not only keeping our streets – and our Harbour clean – they’ll be rewarded with a small gift. That could be in the form of a bus ticket, it could be a draw to receive two passes to the New Year's Eve fireworks, or the 10 cents could be donated to that wonderful organisation Clean-Up Australia.”

Ian Kiernan from Clean-Up Australia explained at the launch that, “plastic is essentially made from oil, so here is [an example of] better resource management."

"The energy to make an aluminium can from new, will make you seven cans from recycled aluminium. It’s just plain good sense,” said Kiernan, who for his environmental efforts was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1991, and Australian of the Year in 1994.

“There is no producer responsibility here in Australia... You buy the beverage, you buy the container, plus profit, plus GST, and then it’s up to you to get rid of it. These machines are a great incentive – they are rewarding people.”

“In 2013, beverage containers and their associated rubbish made up 41 per cent of the total rubbish, and 59 per cent of the top ten rubbish items reported by volunteers in NSW.” This is an increase of three per cent from the previous year.

“This is a serious problem,” adds Kiernan. “We need better ways to capture these containers, turning them from rubbish into a resource. The cleanest and most accessible solution we have seen is the reverse vending model.”

Jeff Angel from the Total Environment Centre added that, “the expense for the City of Sydney to clean up this public space, and empty the public space bins, will be much reduced through the revere vending machines.”

“These reverse vending machines create an efficient and low-cost system. They can be located in shopping centres, public spaces like this, car parks, local convenience stores, or sporting grounds, so that there is an incredibly convenient and accessible piece of technology that can help recycling and reduce litter,” said Angel.

Kiernan has a positive outlook for the future, reflecting that, “we’re going to see lots of these around the country... They really do work, and they’re really going to make a difference.”

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For those not able to take advantage of the Sydney-based reverse vending machines, check out the Envirobank website for other locations. Similar machines are located across the Northern Territory and South Australia, and Envirobank has also rolled-out 60 out of 100 of their machines being installed 7-Eleven’s across NSW, Queensland and Victoria.