Cans and containers for Christmas community cash - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

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The original lyrics of the Anglo-Welsh carol Deck the Halls exhorted the participants to “Fill the mead cup, drain the barrel”, a jolly suggestion but tempered nowadays by our better knowledge of the side-effects of excessive alcohol consumption and knowing that our Yuletide drinking will probably add to the mountain of bottles and cans piled into the environment.

There is some relief from the landfill problem with the recent introduction of refunds for wine and spirit bottles as well as other glass bottles, plastic drink bottles and drink cans. Queensland is the first State in Australia to include spirit and wine bottles in its recycling plan.

While 10c per container mightn’t sound like a quick road to riches, “many a mickle makes a muckle”, as the Scottish saying has it, and the scheme is obviously working. Since its inception in Queensland in November 2018, 7.3 billion containers have passed through the system. By the end of the 2023 financial year 438,199 tonnes of containers had been returned, representing refunds to consumers of more than $710 million – including almost $11 million paid to charities and community groups. Many Redlands charities and not-for-profit organisations, keen to claim their share, are committed recyclers.

The Bayside branch of the self-funded Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland has added $66,000 to its operational coffers in less than five years since joining the scheme. Steve Homewood, branch secretary, devised a routine that has demonstrated benefits beyond the dollars.

“We run pretty lean, mean finances but the refunds just cover our running expenses,” he says.

“I’ve put a dedicated refund bin in my yard and everyone in the street brings their containers and I get them to the local recycler. It’s a good system but we could use more recycling bins in public places like shopping centres and more education about it.

“There are other little things that can help, too, for instance if I’m out walking and see a dropped container I’ll pick it up and bring it back for the bin.”

Tony Spinks, long-term volunteer and a former president of the Redland Museum, is in charge of the Museum’s container refund operations.

“We’ve been in it since it started,” he says, “and while we don’t make a lot of money out of it we do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Cleveland State School took its first steps into recycling by setting up their own “Jeff” bins, named after a popular retired cleaner. Teacher Nicole Barry, who is also collection and refund co-ordinator, says they’ve now upgraded to bins supplied and collected by a local container recycler.

“The students and staff still call them Jeff bins,” she says. “Now that we’re in the system we can keep a tally on our input; in the last two years we’ve saved nearly 9,000 containers from landfill. We have a team of Year Six students, EcoMarines, who monitor the in-school bin and collection procedure and suggest what could be done with money we’ve raised.”

The school’s first outlay was this year’s purchase of a worm farm, which deals effectively with fruit scraps and other discarded organic delicacies. Funds will be given a boost by the P&C having organised a special all-out drive for National Recycling Week in November, asking parents to deliver their 10c recyclables to the school.

So when you’ve gathered up the empties after the Yuletide celebrations spare a moment to think about who could benefit – as well as the local wildlife – from keeping those drink bottles and cans out of landfill – maybe think of it as a Christmas present for the planet.

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