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Almost 500,000 bottles returned to container deposit scheme in first month

More than $45,000 has been refunded to Canberra residents from the ACT's container deposit scheme in its first month.

Newly-released figures have shown more than 450,000 bottles and containers have been returned to collection points since the scheme began on June 30.

While the data from Transport Canberra and City Services didn't reveal which of the nine sites were most popular with users of the service, 60 per cent of transactions came from express points, where less than 500 containers can be returned at a time, while the remaining 40 per cent came from bulk depots, which can handle larger amounts.

Those returning bottles or containers have the option of keeping the refund of 10 cents or donating it to charity, with it estimated more than 10 per cent of transactions at express points being donated to causes such as St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army.

A City Services spokesman said while there isn't an exact figure as to how many people had used the scheme, several thousand people had helped to return bottles to collection points.

"As an indication, more than 1500 residents have registered with the container deposit scheme to date, and there have been around 1200 cash transactions at the depots which do not require registration," the spokesman said.

The directorate said while it had been difficult to measure the anticipated take-up of the scheme, it's expected to grow in use in months to come.

"The ACT launched the scheme in winter, when beverage sales are typically at their lowest. In addition, we have taken a low-key approach to rolling out the scheme, giving us the opportunity to make any adjustments necessary," the spokesman said.

"We know from similar schemes around the world that it can take several years to be operating at maximum capacity."

St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn compliance and governance director Patrick McKenna said there's been a steady growth of people using the scheme at collection points operated by the charity in Tuggeranong, Dickson and Belconnen.

He said the container deposit scheme has translated into more people visiting the stores.

"I'm surprised at how quickly it's built up, and I expect that it will continue to grow and grow," Mr McKenna said.

"We're definitely seeing more customers who are dropping off their containers and then doing some shopping as well."

While overall donations to charities from the scheme has been around 10 per cent of transactions, Mr McKenna said donations to charity at Vinnies collection points has been around 20 per cent.


"The donations are very important to us. One of the initiatives [the money will go towards] is to create employment and social inclusion in Oaks Estate, where there's a lot of people there on Newstart and want to get back into the workforce," Mr McKenna said.

The ACT's scheme was introduced to be as close as possible to one being operated in NSW, which began in January.

In the first five months of it operating in NSW, more than 282 million containers had been returned across the state.

Total Environment Centre director Jeff Angel said the set-up of the ACT scheme was at odds with the one seen in NSW.

"The ACT went about it in a calm and measured manner, contrasting that to NSW where there was a giant rush to roll out collection points at the end of last year," Mr Angel said.

"You couldn't expect the ACT to go it alone [in the scheme] when they're surrounded by NSW, that was logical in terms of jurisdiction boundaries.

After campaigning for container deposit schemes for more than 15 years, Mr Angel said it's reassuring to see so many Canberra residents take up the initiative.

"It's an extremely good result. We're seeing in NSW that as people learn more about the scheme and becoming accustomed to it, the numbers are rising quite steeply," he said.

However, Conservation Council ACT executive director Larry O'Loughlin said the ACT already had a good recycling system and shouldn't be changed with new schemes.

"It wasn't like there was a grand community groundswell for it. It's not like there's been a big community push for one," Mr O'Loughlin said.

"There could be a better use of the current system and better engagement in keeping recyclable materials out of waste to landfill."

The number of locations where Canberrans can drop off containers and bottles is expected to double by July 2019, with 18 drop-off points to be operating.

Source: Canberra Times

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