Return and Earn can and bottle exchange begins in the Hunter

Cashing in: Mayfield resident Robert Tozer was quick to take advantage of the Return and Earn scheme on Friday in Mayfield, one of the first suburbs served.
Cashing in: Mayfield resident Robert Tozer was quick to take advantage of the Return and Earn scheme on Friday in Mayfield, one of the first suburbs served.

The first of four can and plastic bottle recycling machines has been switched on in the Hunter for the state government’s Return and Earn campaign.

As part of the initiative, people can feed recyclable bottles and cans into a machine and receive a 10 cent refund per item. The first machine was switched on outside Woolworth’s, Mayfield, on Friday – with facilities expected to be available at Medowie, Mount Hutton and Salamander Bay soon.

Mayfield resident Robert Tozer was dropping off his third load of plastic bottles and cans at 9.30am on Friday, hours after the service started. Mr Tozer said he had been saving the recyclable items since the scheme was announced.

Parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald dismissed criticism from Labor MP Clayton Barr this week, who said people in his electorate would have to drive up to an hour to take advantage of the scheme.

“You don’t necessarily have to live in Mayfield to use it,” Mr MacDonald said.

“We can’t have them on every street corner.”

Mr MacDonald said the initiative was “just another tool in the toolbox” to reduce landfill.

“We can’t keep talking about it – what we’ve been doing hasn’t worked as well as what we want,” he said.

“Forty-nine per cent of litter by volume is made up of beverage containers – and 43 per cent of the total volume is containers that will be caught by the scheme.”

Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said the government had “botched” the scheme.

He said Newcastle, as the state’s second largest city, should have more than machine.

“The [Newcastle local government area] houses 155,000 people and we have one machine,” he said.

Most un-crushed plastic drink containers between 150ml and three litres will be eligible for a refund.