Reef Recycling has stockpiled more than one million cans since Christmas and New Year. (ABC North Queensland: Tom Edwards)
You might be able to picture what a million drink cans looks like, but you probably cannot imagine the smell.
The stench of stale beer and soft drinks is from a mountain of cans stockpiled at a container refund depot in Townsville.
Reef Recycling operations manager Shane Stratton said the depot was getting 800,000 containers a week.
“We had an awfully big response during that [Christmas-New Year] period, which we couldn’t cope with so we’ve had to bunker it [the cans] here in the corner,” Mr Stratton said.
“There’d be over a million [cans] there.
“It’s not going to stop for a while, there’s a line up [of cars] down the street at the moment … we’re doing around 400 cars a day, so it’s quite normal.”
A worker counts containers while a customer waits at the Reef Recycling depot in Townsville. (ABC North Queensland: Tom Edwards)
Since its launch on November 1, the container refund scheme has processed 150 million containers across Queensland, paying out more than $15 million.
In Townsville, Mr Stratton said the demand was so strong they were looking to recruit more staff and add more bins and counting tables.
He said their popularity could be because they were one of the few depots to pay cash on the spot to the public.
Overflowing bins in Bowen in December led to some people rorting the system by putting their stickers on other people’s bags. (Supplied: Dale Last)
“People like cash. As far as the scheme ID program goes, we’ve hardly done any,” Mr Stratton said.
“We have a well laid out depot, it’s a drive-through, and it’s under cover. That makes a big difference.
“The feedback that we get is that people like that and, of course, the cash.”
But despite its success, the scheme has not been without issues.
Dozens of bags of containers were overflowing at collection points in Bowen in December, leading to some people rorting the system by putting their stickers on other people’s bags.
COEX, the non-profit organisation coordinating the scheme, is also investigating claims of non-payment of contractors and staff at a Charters Towers depot that has since been shut down by the operator.
There are also reports of delays to online payments, with Brisbane woman Beverley Marshall claiming to be owed more than $50 from container drop offs going as far back as the beginning of December.
Beverley Marshall says she’s owed more than $50 by the Containers For Change refund scheme. (ABC News: Rachel Riga)
“Next time I think we will just crush them [aluminium cans] and take them to where used to take them,” she said.
“You get paid by the kilo so it’s not as much, but it’s a lot easier.”
COEX spokesperson Adam Nicholson would not discuss specifics while investigations were ongoing, but said their priority was ensuring customers were not left out of pocket.
“We have seen a massive response, far more than we or anyone else predicted,” he said.
“I think we are experiencing twice the number or volume of containers as seen in New South Wales, so we’ve really load-tested our scheme since day one.
“The positive is that we know where our areas for improvement, are and we’re working really hard behind the scenes.”
An average of 400 cars a day are depositing around 800,000 containers each week at Reef Recycling in Townsville. (ABC North Queensland: Tom Edwards)
Mr Nicholson said they expected there would be more difficulties in remote and less populated areas.
“We ran an open market tender to get business and charity groups to become involved and, while we had a great response, there is no doubt that it was much lower in the far west and far north,” he said.
“We are working very hard with chambers of commerce and local councils, and local businesses.
“We have some business development managers who spend a lot of time on the road talking and helping other businesses to come on board.
“We will continue to do that until we have expanded the network to its full size.”
Reef Recycling may have to put on extra staff to deal with demand after the Australia Day long weekend. (ABC North Queensland: Tom Edwards)
Meanwhile at Reef Recycling in Townville, the mountain of cans is likely to swell after the Australia Day long weekend.
“We’re expecting it to be a busy week next week, so we’ve got extra staff working on the Tuesday,” Mr Stratton said.
“It might put us back behind the eight ball again, but we’ll catch up.”