Dozens of recycling bins have gone missing in Newcastle in recent weeks, before turning up near the Return and Earn machine in the carpark of Woolworths Mayfield.
The thefts have led to some people avoiding putting bottles and cans in their recycling bins for fear of making them targets for scavenging.
Annoyed residents aired their complaints on social media this week, after people collecting cans and bottles to earn some money as part of the state government initiative decided to forgo sorting at each property and instead made-off with entire bins without returning them.
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Lucy Glover, who owns Hunter Street business Ka-fey Cafe, said she had two bins stolen in early December.
One was replaced with a brand new receptacle within about a fortnight, but Ms Glover spotted both her missing bins near the Mayfield Return and Earn depot on Thursday, after they had been moved to the side of the street ready for a mass collection.
It has meant that she puts used cans and bottles aside rather than in the yellow-lidded bin.
“We are happy for them to take them [bottles and cans], but stealing the whole bin is not sustainable practice,” she said.
Mayfield resident Tara Hawley was without a recycling bin for a week after hers was taken early one Saturday morning recently.
“They could have just taken the bottles and left the bin,” she said.
“But in reality I guess that would mean taking the time to transfer them and risk the house owner becoming aware – and not everyone is friendly. I no longer put bottles in the bin either.”
A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said residents should contact police “if they believe someone is stealing material from their recycling bin”.
“The bins are being stolen at night after having been put out for collection the following morning,” he said.
“There is nothing we can do other than return stolen bins to property owners once they have been located or provide new bins if the bins have been damaged.”
The state government introduced the Return and Earn container deposit scheme in late 2017, meaning people can collect 10 cents per eligible container they hand in to a nominated depot. There are more than 500 collection points across NSW.