When it comes to recycling, Gunnedah is leading the way in sustainable practices and being rewarded for its efforts.

Figures from the NSW’s Return and Earn scheme show Gunnedah has recycled more than 31 million containers through its local return point since the scheme launched in December 2017 – that equates to $3.1 million in container refunds back to the community.

The scheme, which credits 10 cents from every bottle recycled through its reverse vending machines, recently celebrated six years in operation with eight in 10 adults across the state participating.

A Return and Earn spokesperson said by recycling their drink containers through the scheme, Gunnedah locals are contributing to a growing circular economy where materials are kept in the loop and out of landfill and the litter stream.

Gunnedah’s positive environmental benefits of their returns include 186 million litres in water savings, equivalent to 75 Olympic swimming pools; 41,703 gigajoules in energy savings, equivalent to 334 households’ annual energy use; 1.9 million kilograms in landfill savings, equivalent to 200 garbage trucks of waste, and 3.8 million kilograms of CO2 emissions avoided, equivalent to 1415 cars off the road for a year.

The spokesperson said the scheme has also made a significant difference to recycling practices across NSW.

Zac Comer using the return and earn container recycling machine.

“Return and Earn has fundamentally changed people’s behaviours, with more than 10.4 billion drink containers returned through the state-wide network of 600-plus return points, resulting in $1.4 billion in container refunds to the people of NSW since the scheme began,” they said.

“Return and Earn has also become an important fundraising channel for many charities, with more than $47 million raised for charities and community groups via donations and fees from hosting return points.

“Local charity PCYC Gunnedah is currently featured as the donation partner on the Woolworths Gunnedah Return and Earn machine with donations supporting their
programs to empower youth in the community.”

Zac from Gunnedah was one of many who utilised the return and earn service this week.

He had used the scheme about once a month for the past two years and was shocked to hear the number of containers recycled at the Gunnedah site.

Also participating were Lachlan Barwick and Dylan Marley who use the funds from recycled plastic water bottles to buy new ones.

Dylan was pleased to also help do his part for the environment.

“It is good that it’s not going back into landfill,” he said.

Some Return and Earn machines have already been upgraded to the new, next-generation ‘takes-all’ technology which accepts all eligible containers in each of the four chutes rather than requiring separate glass and lightweight inputs, reducing queuing and sorting times for recyclers.

Some sites, such as one in Tamworth, also offers a ‘tag and drop’ service, allowing customers to drop off containers for staff to process.

In recognition of the role of NSW firefighters, individuals can also choose to donate the 10c return deposit to the RFS Benevolent Fund, a charity created to provide support to Rural Fire Service members and their families during challenging times.

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