‘Return & Earn’ wins big for environment and people in need
The community is awash with unwanted (and often unnecessary) packaging material, much of which cannot be recycled and is no longer accepted by overseas processors. However, single-use drink containers – glass and plastic bottles, and aluminium cans – can be recycled within Australia at an economic cost.
Container deposit schemes work by adding a small extra deposit on top of the price of a beverage such as those in plastic and glass bottles and aluminium cans. These deposits are then refunded to consumers, or to designated charities such as the Society, when they return the empty containers for recycling.
Removing containers from the waste stream is another example of the Society’s commitment to good environmental practice – in the same way that our shops give new life to unwanted items. It also generates valuable funds for our community work with families and individuals struggling to make ends meet.
From humble beginnings our Return & Earn program has grown to become a significant and profitable commercial enterprise. In the 2019/20 financial year our involvement with the container deposit scheme netted a total profit of $833,124, helping fund our good works across the community.
The practical focus has moved towards large scale Return & Earn depots, and away from Over the Counter collection points previously located in several Vinnies Shops.
A grand total of 92 million containers were collected, making this sustainable model a benchmark for excellence across the whole Return & Earn NSW Scheme.
In October 2019, we opened our sixth Return & Earn depot, this time in Dubbo (after Penrith, Unanderra, South Nowra, Cardiff and Wagga Wagga). The joint venture is with an Indigenous organisation, Regional Enterprise Development Institute (REDI.E), operating on Wiradjuri land.
It is a strong demonstration of the Society’s commitment to its Reconciliation Action Plan and to developing practical relationships with Aboriginal partners. It enabled us to employ one full-time Aboriginal worker, with scope for further employment as the business grows.
The Chief Executive Officer of REDI.E Tracey Shillingsworth describes the new initiative as a win-win for the local economy and the Indigenous community.
“We know our communities are familiar with Vinnies and the incredible work they do. This joint venture represents our vision to be at the forefront of innovation and collaboration with other local organisations. We are proud to be part of this initiative, which is an important step towards reducing litter, protecting our environment, and building sustainable futures for our people.”