"Reverse vending machine" is a hit with enterprising recyclers

A bustling recycling business

There is a busy new industry in Glen – recycling for money.

Michelle Lockwood put in 300 cans.

Michelle Lockwood put in 300 cans.

On Tuesday night, the new machine in the Woolworths car-park was crowded with people pouring in hundreds of cans and bottles in return for ten cents each (either for themselves or for a charity they chose at the machine).

It seems to have transformed the way people view bottles and cans and what can be done with them.

In the past, recycling was done out of virtue – or often not done. Now the incentives have changed - it has become a way of earning some money.

No figures are available for the new machine which has only been open for less than a week but it was being well used even after only a few days. There was a wait to use it.

One man had a flat bed truck with six large oil drums packed with bottles and drinks cans for recycling. Another family had a supermarket trolley full of cans.

Keith Lockwood wouldn’t say how much he hoped to get back, only that it was “a few dollars”.

Michelle Lockwood who was feeding about 300 cans into the recycling machine said she didn’t reckon they made much money because the companies had put the prices of bottles and cans up with the advent of the machines across New South Wales. “

Jacob Lee, a bright school student, was glowing in enthusiasm. He said recycling was fun because it gave him a bit of money. His family collected cans, partly at their restaurant on Grey Street and partly by looking for them.

Keith Lockwood: "I drink eight cans of soft drinks a day".

Keith Lockwood: "I drink eight cans of soft drinks a day".

The NSW government started its “reverse vending machine” scheme on December 1, with ministers calling it “the biggest anti litter measure in the state’s history”.

More than 800 refund machines are to be rolled out across the state. They accept cans and bottles from 150 millilitre to 3 litres in size (though wine bottles are excluded). You feed the can or bottle in. The machines analyses and counts them and tallies up the refund. You press a button for a donation to charity or a cash voucher.

What is not clear is the impact it will have on the existing recycling methods. In Glen Innes, Glen Industries receives bottles and cans put out in yellow topped council bins. it then sorts them and sells to recycling plants. If it gets fewer cans and bottles, its finances may be affected.

For the council, though, the aim is to get recycling done – how it’s done may not matter, particularly if the new scheme cuts litter. There have been problems with the scheme because people put all kinds of waste, including animal carcasses, in recycling bins. 

But the economics of the new state scheme are simple: pay people money and they will do it.