Lightning Ridge, home to the famous Black Opal, is a small outback town in north-western NSW.

While perhaps best known for its Artesian Bore Baths and Chambers of the Black Hand, the remote town is also the site of one of Return and Earn’s most celebrated return points.

Established as an over-the-counter collection point for Return and Earn in December 2017, the Royal Flying Doctors Service’s (RFDS) Lightning Ridge Support Group has raised over $277,000 through the scheme.

Terry Clark, RFDS Dubbo Support Group President and Board Member, of which Lightning Ridge is a subcommittee, says the goal of the RFDS is to provide a full spectrum of medical services to regional and remote communities.

Through its fund-raising activities, the RFDS subcommittee has financed a mobile dental clinic, shed to house patient transfer vehicles and a Lightning Ridge Wellness Centre to support mental health.

When Return and Earn was launched, the group partnered with network operator TOMRA Cleanaway – manually collecting bottles and cans for recycling.

“It’s a way of maximising the conversion of bottles and cans from the scrap metal part into a more profitable recycling remuneration,” Clark says.

“The big bonus is that a lot of people turn up to our collection days to process their bottles and cans.

“The group also collects bottles and cans that are donated, so we get 100 per cent of the refund.”

Clark explains that all funds raised get redirected back into the community via medical equipment and services.

“If you’re putting money into a system that circulates back to improve and support your medial services, well I mean, wow,” he says.

Clark’s sentiments are mirrored by James Dorney, CEO of TOMRA Cleanaway, who says container deposit schemes (CDS) are about a lot more than just producing positive environmental outcomes.

They have the ability, he explains, to function as streamlined donation points.

“The design of Return and Earn allows for benefits to be shared by return point hosts, their partners and the wider community. Providing a financial incentive to individuals who recycle and an easy way for donations to occur,” Dorney says.

“Return and Earn is providing new opportunities for social enterprises, community groups, sporting clubs, schools and charities to raise funds in a time where money is pretty tight.”

In early August, Environment Minister Matt Kean said that when the NSW Government introduced Return and Earn as a litter reduction initiative in 2017, they knew it would be successful.

But, he added, they could not have imagined just how successful.

Kean went on to highlight how the NSW community had embraced CDS, with three-quarters of residents now participating and over four billion containers returned.

Read the Full Article in Waste Management Review