Our Say: Nice little earner now a government debacle

WHO would have thought a 10 cent return on recyclable bottles could become such a PR disaster?

The cash for bottles scheme has been running for decades in South Australia with no apparent issues, but when the NSW Government decided in September last year that it would introduce the safe refund in this state, it could not have imagined what a debacle it might become.

From the start, green groups warned that the proposed deadline for starting the scheme – initially July 1 this year – was going to be tight.

Even with a five-month extension, though, much of the infrastructure will still not be in place when the refund scheme officially launches on Friday.

For weeks, this newspaper (and many more across the state) has been trying to get information about where local people will be able to cash in their recyclables to collect the glittering 10c reward on offer.

The silence as been deafening as it became quite clear that no-one – and least of all the government – was exactly sure what the plan was for Dubbo.

And when Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton sent out a boldly-worded press release late on Monday rejoicing the imminent start of the scheme, it showed that nothing had changed.

Ms Upton had a lot to say about the 200 or so Return and Earn sites that will be up and running on Friday, but precious little to say about the hundreds more that won’t be.

A hand map linked to the press release showed collection points have been established at Cowra and Wellington (both at Woolworths outlets) but nowhere else in the Central West.

So while residents in Bathurst, Orange, Lithgow, Dubbo, Oberon, Mudgee and all points in between are already paying more to buy recyclable bottles and containers, there will be nowhere for them to redeem those containers when the scheme finally gets under way.

It’s an embarrassing gaffe for the government over what was billed as one of this state’s great environmental projects.

The scheme is further diminished by revelations that recycled bottle won’t earn cash for the redeemer but, rather, a voucher at participating corporate partners. In most cases  that means Woolworths.

The whole scheme is starting to reek of over-promising and under-delivering. South Australians must think it’s hilarious.