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Dumpster divers competing with local councils for the spoils

Have you spied kids or older folk in NSW rifling through your yellow top bins and stealing away bottles and other containers so they cash them in at the container deposit depot?

Apparently, the 10 cents now paid in the new container deposit scheme is fuelling a new business avenue for people who want to make a few extra dollars on the side.

There’s a view that the profits these new variety of dumpster divers are making is not altogether kosher, that it’s money that would otherwise go to councils which use the spoils of its recycling work (for want of a better word) to fund community facilities, such as parks and libraries. 

Maybe it’s a question of degrees. According to Mike Ritchie managing director of waste management business MRA Consulting Group, so far it’s not a major problem.

A small amount of pilfering from kerbside yellow top bins is occurring. It’s not uncommon but it’s not a mass epidemic either.” 

The scheme was designed to reduce litter, he says, but it’s much easier to rifle through a bin than slosh around near waterways and playing fields for garbage.

“The whole scheme is set up to fix litter and allow people to recover material that world otherwise go to landfill.” 

So far though, he says the scheme is working well, with around 300 reverse vending machines around the state.

But what wouldn’t hurt is some metrics around “how good”. 

“The challenge at this time is to show that litter is actually reducing significantly and enough to justify the expense of the scheme,” he said. 

“The metrics the government is using are based on voluntary litter counts by Keep Australia Beautiful. That is not scientific enough to justify the $200 million plus expense of the scheme. So long as the scheme reduces litter and particularly marine plastic pollution then it will be worthwhile, but we must have robust data to prove it.”

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