Data from the Environment Protection Authority shows Young residents have recycled more than 18,700,000 items through Return and Earn in the past three years.

The South Western Slopes and Riverina area of NSW is rich in agriculture thanks to the magnificent Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers that wind their way through the region. A recycling revolution is underway in the region however, enabling innovation and partnerships to form across organisations. TOMRA Cleanaway has been active in the area since the commencement of the Return and Earn container deposit scheme in December 2017.

Beginning at the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, the Riverina extends to the Victorian border and covers some of NSW and Australia’s most unique landscapes, primarily due to the presence of the rivers that deliver a consistent water flow from annual snow melts in the mountains. The rivers are surrounded by rich flood plains that support a range of farming and agricultural activities, sheep and wool, orchards, cropping and more recently viticulture as primary sources of income for communities that reside in the region.

Small businesses and charities across the Riverina provide important partnerships for TOMRA Cleanaway as hosts of Return and Earn return points

Industry innovation and recycling in the Riverina

Agriculture is not the only industry established in the region however, the recycling industry has in recent times been an employer and community enabler in the area. One example of this has been the development of partnerships through NSW Environmental Protection Authority funding. This has encouraged local governments across the area have established Community Recycling Centres, allowing residents to recycle awkward wastes safely and effectively.

Organisations such as Kurrajong Recycling, a not-for-profit focussed on meeting the needs of people with a disability have been able to leverage community enthusiasm for recycling. They employ supported workers in Wagga Wagga, West Wyalong and Narrandera.

Kurrajong Recycling has been able to expand its service offering due to the NSW Container Deposit Scheme, Return and Earn. In 2018 they commenced processing materials at Wagga Wagga. This service is provided in addition to other recycling services including e-waste processing, a material recovery facility that processes kerbside yellow bin recycling from 6 local government areas, a glass crushing facility, document destruction and plastics processing facility.

Valmar Industries – creating a revolution in the Snowy Valley

Valmar Industries is another disability support service associated with the recycling revolution in the Riverina. Located in the Snowy Valley of NSW. Traditionally Valmar has provided in-home support for people with disabilities, but as waste and recycling innovation has occurred, Valmar has been able to leverage the opportunity to open a business services arm that includes recycling facilities such as a Community Recycling Centre and an op-shop.

The organisation identified that the commencement of the container deposit scheme in December 2017 was an opportunity to further expand its business services arm, an over-the-counter return point for Return and Earn was established. This operation grew quickly in popularity and 2018 saw a transition to an automated depot and a bulk container processing centre for the region.

The innovation being delivered by Valmar has strengthened partnerships with the local Council – Snowy Valley Council, who has assisted the organisations’ expansion and supported activities. Of their partnership with TOMRA Cleanaway, Hugh Packard, CEO of Valmar said, “TOMRA Cleanaway has enabled us to provide viable ‘Green Jobs’ for people with disabilities and their support staff and has allowed us the opportunity to raise the profile of our organisation locally.”

Through a partnership with TOMRA Cleanaway and the scheme, Valmar has been able to employ 14 people with disabilities to operate the automated depot for Return and Earn. Staff are involved in diverse activities that provide them with meaningful work, assisting customers, sort containers, and other activities discussed in consultation with their support workers.

Around 50 people living with disabilities, who otherwise face barriers to employment, are employed at the Gilmore site near Tumut in the Snowy Valley.

John Stanfield, Manager of Valmar’s operations says of the return point activities, “It’s great for people with disabilities to be involved in the automated depot. It gives them pride and recognition for their work and helps them realise they are valuable people in the community,”

John reports on great support from locals in the Snowy Valleys region, who generally process 40,000 containers each weekend – three-quarters from the public and the remainder through donations via a partnership with Snowy Valleys Council.

Funds raised through donated containers and revenue from hosting the return point help pay the staff’s wages at the site. “The automated depot is a partnership with the Snowy Valleys Council,” explains John. “If profits grow beyond what we need for staff salaries, funds go back to the council, and the community will benefit.”

The Valmar Industries automated depot has also turned into a community hub. “People have a real purpose of going visit the site. For young families, it can be a good place to come to socialise and see the need to do the right thing for the environment.”

James Dorney, CEO of Return and Earn Network Operator TOMRA Cleanaway, said the Valmar hosted automated depot is a real win for the Snowy Valley community, “This automated depot is a true example of a partnership approach to providing the community access to Return and Earn whilst achieving wider sustainability outcomes. Valmar and Snowy Valleys Council, together with TOMRA Cleanaway, worked hard to get the site operational and its popularity and success is a testament to this. Well done, Valmar!”

Young locals enthusiastic recyclers

Young residents in the Hill Tops Shire of NSW are some of the most enthusiastic supporters of the NSW container deposit scheme, Return and Earn in the Riverina region.  Data from the Environment Protection Authority shows Young residents have recycled more than 18,700,000 items through Return and Earn machines in the past three years.

Return and Earn container deposit scheme celebrated its third birthday in December 2020; another milestone that came close to the scheme birthday was the celebration of over 5 billion containers returned across NSW since the scheme commenced.

An EPA spokesperson said the scheme had created a community-wide shift in attitude towards recycling. “Return and Earn continues to be an outstanding success across New South Wales.”

“The scheme has fundamentally changed people’s thinking and behaviour around litter with over 40 million containers on average returned per week through the network of over 600 return points across NSW,” the spokesperson added.

Return and Earn is becoming an increasingly important fundraising avenue for charities and community groups. More than $18.2 million has been returned to not-for-profits and community groups through donations and fees from hosting return points since the scheme commenced.

Local charities can also partner with the scheme by becoming donation partners with return points, including the Reverse Vending Machines.

For more information on Return and Earn in Young, NSW please visit the Young Witness.

Find out more information on Valmar Industries involvement in Return and Earn.

Contact Us to learn more about our partnerships with community groups, charities and not for profits.