We are a sceptical bunch in the journalism trade – and so we should be.
So when the Environment Protection Authority published figures showing that 310 535 cans, bottles and cartons were deposited in the “reverse vending” machine in the Woolworth car park in its first 48 days since it opened on December 1, we were doubtful.
That, on my rough calculation, is 6 469 a day. Can this be true?
So I went and counted, taking just over a two hour period as reasonably typical – 24 hours in a car park counting cans is too much for anyone. We wouldn’t wish it on our worst enemy.
In those two hours from 7.30 on Saturday morning, 986 items were deposited on my rough calculation, earning these enterprising people nearly a hundred dollars between them, just about ten dollars each (I lost count of how many people – it was either nine or ten).
So, again on a rough calculation, it does seem possible that about 6,500 cans, bottles and cartons could be deposited there in 24 hours. Let’s say people don’t go in the dead of night, and only go between 8 am and 10 pm, but that’s still 14 hours at 986 an hour adding up to 6,902 items deposited, more than the officially published total.
The time in the Woolworth car park revealed, though, a big change that’s coming over recycling. The people who took the bags and bags of cans, bottles and cartons weren’t people you might expect to recycle. They weren’t well-to-do middle class people “doing the right thing”.
I think they were mostly new recyclers. Enterprising people who have found new sources of money. One person from a pub, for example, had previously paid to have the bottles taken away but now she put them all in bags and took them for the business at ten cents a piece.
Another lady recycled 490 items, nearly all of them Pepsi cans. She brought them in on a flat-bed truck.
She told me she was bringing four-and-a-half year’s worth of Pepsi cans which she had never thrown out but put in a pile in the backyard.
And nearly all the recyclers were women?
Why is that?