Running on Empties

28 June 2018

Six months after the launch of the Return and Earn reverse vending machine at UNSW Kensington, over half-a-million plastic and glass bottles have been recycled.
UNSW was the first educational institution to install a reverse vending as part of the ‘Return and Earn’ container deposit scheme.

The scheme aims to improve recycling rates and reduce the volume of litter in the state by 40% by 2020.

The initiative allows UNSW staff, students and the wider community to earn 10 cents for every eligible drink container returned to the machine.
Drink container litter currently makes up 44% of the volume of all litter in the state and costs more than $162 million to manage, according to the NSW Environment Protection Authority.

UNSW Senior Manager, Environmental Sustainability, Will Syddall, says that while this initiative helps to reduce littering and improve recycling rates, it is just one step in improving the way we create and manage waste. “In the waste hierarchy, reducing and reusing resources is better than recycling them. We encourage the community to use reusable water bottles and coffee cups so that they can avoid disposable cups and bottles altogether.

“We also recognise that we have more work to do to reduce the amount of single use plastic and other consumables used on our campuses,” says Mr Syddall.

Increasing awareness of plastic pollution in the oceans, highlighted by the BBC TV programme Blue Planet II, has led to calls to ban single use plastics, redesign products and shift towards sustainable product reuse systems. 
According to the World Bank half of the plastic ever manufactured was made only in the last 15 years, making new technologies and innovation critical.

In Australia, supermarkets are also acting to reduce waste by introducing a ban on single use plastic bags. IN NSW, some supermarkets banned the use of the bags this week. Others will follow in the next few months.

More information
UNSW Plastic Free July 2018