Trash treasure hunters

The NSW government’s Return and Earn container deposit scheme has reduced litter around town, but it’s also had an unintended consequence: people illegally ‘dumpster diving’ on private and public property.

The scheme shells out 10c for eligible bottles and cans. For some, the incentive is proving to be irresistible.

Snowy Valleys Council’s Director Assets and Infrastructure Matt Christensen said the Container Deposit Scheme has been an absolute winner in terms of litter collection from streets, rivers and parks, but it has also revealed another less acceptable side.

“There are some poor social behaviours developing along the way that are collateral and unintended impacts of the Return and Earn scheme,” Mr Christensen said.

“While most people are embracing the chance to get a few dollars back on their empties some are enjoying it a little too much.

“Residents are becoming concerned about people rifling through bins, including other resident’s bins before they are put on the curb for waste collection day, in order to claim the 10 cents per container for themselves.”

Mr Christensen said that the council does not have any lawful control of people who enter into private property to sort through bins and he encourages residents experiencing this issue to contact the police.

“Providing the police with names and details of the people concerned or photos can aid an investigation and help resolve the issue quickly,” he said.

More than 160 million drink containers are littered across the state each year, and drink containers make up almost half the volume of total litter in NSW.

As of February 1 this year, Return and Earn reported that over 64 million containers had been brought back for recycling by New South Wales residents.

Most drink containers between 150ml and three litres are eligible. This includes glass, plastic, aluminium, steel and some cartons.

Residents can take their eligible drink containers for a 10 cent refund to the Re-Use Shop at the Tumut Waste & Recycling Centre or use the reverse vending machine in the Woolworths carpark.

“People who go out collecting for containers need to respect the rights of private landowners and the law”, Mr Christensen said.

“Tipping bins out onto public land is littering and on-the-spot-fines can and will be issued against people breaking the law”.

Mr Christensen asks that residents contact Council’s Ranger as soon as possible if they see people emptying the contents of bins onto public land.

“While we encourage everyone to do their bit for the environment and take part in the Return and Earn scheme we ask that collectors abide by the laws and not leave broken glass and waste lying about”, he said.

Police recently published CCTV footage of two men rifling through a Gilmore property. They were collecting bottles and cans.

Last week, 37-year-old Michael Joseph Hayes fronted Tumut Local Court in relation to the trespass and theft.

The court was told some 14 CCTV cameras were installed at the property, known as Rosemount, after the location was the target of repeated stealing and trespass since the occupier passing away.

The resident was a collector of various forms of waste.

Hayes admitted to police he’d been at the property to collect cans to be redeemed for cash.

He received no penalty for the offence in Tumut Local Court.