We know options diminish with distance from big cities. Telecommunications, retail, services.
Deep in rural Australia, we have fewer choices than our city-dwellling friends. Same goes for recycling. Out here, where we most need to pick up bottles and cans, it can be hard to get involved in Queensland’s landmark container recycling refund scheme.
So it’s encouraging to hear that a Containers for Change scheme recycling depot at Normanton has attracted strong community support across the region. Two years in, a million containers recycled, Annie Cork, Joseph Rainbow and the team have done a remarkable thing.
“We cover four shires, Carpentaria, Burke, Croydon and Etheridge. It’s a massive area, about 170,000 square kilometres. In Burke and Carpentaria, we go out and collect from people. Elderly people in Karumba, we do door-to-door pickup. We do the big run, about 900 kilometres to Burke Shire, Normanton to Burketown. We go to Tirrana Springs roadhouse, Gregory, some of the cattle stations. We either do it Burketown way or we’ll go Burke & Wills way the next time, depending on who’s got what. We can bring back up to 40,000 containers a trip.”
Annie says that’s a lot of containers not ending up on roadsides, in the bush, or the beautiful Gulf waterways. “In the early days when people started getting very keen, they were going down to the waterways, rivers, and popular spots and picking containers up and bringing them in. There was one woman who works at the hospital who cleaned up a really big area of the Norman River while she was fishing. As soon as people come in and get paid, they’re hooked. We always try to emphasise to the kids that it’s not just about money, it’s about cleaning up Country as well. It’s probably not anything we’ll ever make a huge amount of money on, but the rewards are more than the financial gain of doing this. It’s a very fulfilling thing, just to see the towns cleaned up and money being brought back in.”
Also making a difference is our Litter Quitter program, helping local businesses adapt to Queensland’s ban on single use plastics. We took eco-products expert Diane Creasey, from Enviromart Australia, to Georgetown, Normanton, Karumba and Mareeba, where she helped local businesses identify viable alternatives to now outlawed products like drinking straws, stirrers, plates, bowls and stirrers. “We’ve helped people understand the ban and identify really good options to replace single use plastics,” Diane said.