Committee for Lorne: The New State-wide Recycling Scheme
It’s nice to have a new daily task – especially when gaps in my languid daily schedule open up. My bench, overcrowded with used containers awaiting a ‘toss or recycle’ decision, is looking quite arty — in a ‘retro’ kind of way.
As I line everything up … tallest to the left, shortest to the right … or perhaps better, the glass to one side and liquid-proofed wax cartons to the other … or it should be bin bottles to the front, 10c returns to the back. Decisions, decisions! All those loose minutes fly by as I mix and match, change groupings, range by size, colour, and type — then rearrange. My goodness, it is nearly tea time!
What of the poor, frazzled working mums and dads who must now add ‘sort and decide’ to their day before asking little Johnny to ‘put out the bottles’? What to put out in the purple bin? What still goes into the yellow? And most importantly for the family ‘kitty’, what should little Johnny lug to the supermarket return/refund bin to claim his pocket money reward? Meanwhile, don’t ignore the rest of the waste rainbow — the red and green. They still deserve our attention.
Reward and refund are tantalising words! However, this reward may prove disappointing, being but a sliver of the inevitable broad-based price hike that will be tacked onto the retail price to offset any anticipated return to the customer. In addition, an extra car trip a week [or a day, for some] may be needed to claim the meagre recycling reward — after queueing, that is, for a ‘feed the bin’ turn.
To aid me in my new daily game of ‘Decision’, I studied the signage on the new ‘returns bins’ and watched others chance their luck at getting it right. I observed that [a] the signage is somewhat opaque —to me at least, while [b] the ‘others’ appeared as bemused as me.
Nostalgia paid a visit as I harkened back to the days when Mrs Baldry [‘Ivy’ to the grown-ups] — her hair curled in voluminous buns over each ear — would scoop, weigh, and package our weekly measure of sugar, flour, oats and other daily staples into paper bags — later to be reused. Mrs Baldry’s bags, Mr Challis’s butchers’ paper, the newspaper that wrapped our weekly fish and chips — none were ever wasted. They were essential components of my Gran’s efficient recycling system. Crumpled, they would light her wood stove, ignite her fire, or set a cheerful flame under the copper for her weekly washday. How simple life, then. How complex, now.
Don’t get me wrong … I admire and support our efforts to recycle, redirect, and reuse our waste — much of it used packaging — but there is just so much more of it now. Weighing and bagging worked. It was even fun … especially when a small boy’s wetted finger managed to stray into the sugar bin while Ivy’s attention was distracted by weighing and bagging! And — the wondrous smells in her shop. The waft of unpackaged sweets, fruits, and spices, all augmented by the fresh scent of gumtree sawdust from the Babington and Armistead timber mills, spread daily on the grocery and butcher’s shop floors!
Gran would reuse her empty glass jars on jam-making, pickling, and fruit-bottling days. Milk, delivered daily, would be left in glass bottles at the door. Then, emptied and washed, they would be left out on the same doorstep for collection and reuse by ‘the Milko’.
Along the way — but in my remembered lifetime — we have become a throwaway society. The catch cries of ‘single-use’, ‘disposable’, ‘non-returnable’, and ‘packaged for your protection’ took hold — whether we wanted [or needed] protection or not. We became neglectful, unheeding, and careless.
Now, with laggard recognition of our wasteful habits, we have begun to play catch-up. Yet, having spent billions on developing materials that biodegrade and trillions on implementing clean-up practices, we are still soothed by the word ‘biodegradable’, smug in the thought it will all break down ‘soon enough’. But, to invoke the biodegradable timescale is another way of saying, ‘… how long is a piece of string?’
But, the stuff we are still required to pop into our purple bins [thank heavens I can still hide away those wine bottles] or now move about like a weird ‘which-do-I-dispose-and-to-where’ recycling jigsaw puzzle on our bench tops is not biodegradable. So, we must bite the bullet, do our sorting, and embrace the scheme as best we can.
So … I visited https://www.vic.gov.au/container-deposit-scheme. This website does help, though the wording ‘Eligible’ and ‘Exempt’ might have been a little clearer.
‘Eligible’ means pop them in the new bins — in Lorne, these are at the supermarket — and you will get a [small] reward. Eligible containers include non-concentrated fruit or vegetable juice, flavoured milk, beer, soft drink, and mixed spirits.
‘Exempt’ means don’t pop them in the new bins — they must still go into our purple bins at home, and you get no reward! Exempt containers include glass wine bottles, glass spirit bottles, juice bottles [1 litre and over], cordial bottles, milk [other than flavoured milk], concentrated fruit or vegetable juice, and health tonics.
Then, it all gets a little murky, for how and why some containers are designated ‘acceptable’ and others ‘non-acceptable’ seems somewhat arbitrary and may be easily confused. Nevertheless, we must all try to learn and recognise these categories — though this author will apply no test!
The Victorian Government media release notes that “… the scheme will provide 600 jobs, and will provide refunds in the form of cash, retail vouchers, or electronic funds transfers via reverse vending machines, at over-the-counter sites, depots, and ‘pop-up’ refund sites with a further choice to ‘donate to charity or community organisations”. Regarding the latter, perhaps we might collectively nominate our CFA or hospital.
“Private operators [Return-It, TOMRA Cleanaway, and Visy] will establish and oversee the refund points and ensure proper recycling of the containers”. Pertinent to Lorne, “… the Zone Operators must provide at least one collection point for a regional town of 750 people”. That said, and in my view, Lorne deserves at least three, given our weekend and summer crowds.
Hmm … how could any of that go wrong? Do we prepare for even more bins and mess, or will this solve and not worsen our woes?
For now, though, it’s back to ‘sort and rank’ on my kitchen bench, though it is a little sobering to see that the purple bin is getting the bulk of the workout.
Maybe it’s time I switched to beer! Though the disqualification from a refund for those of us with a penchant for wine seems unfair, at least I’d get a refund!