The container deposit scheme is up and running but finding a collection point within close proximity is proving a challenge for many regional participants.
Collection points are still few and far between in Western NSW, for those who are looking to reclaim their 10 cents on cans and bottles.
There are a total of 15 collection points across Western NSW, with the majority of those over-the-counter returns at local businesses.
Just five locations, Cowra, Young, Wellington, Yass and Cootamundra, have the reverse vending machines.
Two of the region’s biggest population centres, Orange and Dubbo, have missed out, while residents of some towns face a drive of several hours to get to the nearest return point.
The government had initially promised more than 500 return points would be operating when the scheme started on December 1, but as that date got closer it was scaled back to 220 at launch.
As of last week, there was 274 points available across NSW, with 199 of those located in Sydney and the majority of the rest along the coast.
Consumers are now paying approximately 15 cents per container to fund the scheme, with the average carton of beer costing an extra $4.
Fairfax Media approached Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton ahead of the launch to ask if the government had broken a promise, and if regional NSW had been let down by the roll out.
In a statement the Minister didn’t address any of the questions, simply pointing consumers to the program website and promising “the roll out will continue – this is just the start”.
Since then the Ms Upton said there had been an “overwhelming response” to the scheme, with two mission drink containers returned in the first week.
Ms Upton has advised people in an area with no nearby return point to store their drink containers until one is available.
Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said the government had botched the scheme, and their promise to have 800 reverse vending machine had ended with just 45 operating at launch.
“Minister Upton had one job which was to launch a scheme that can help reduce litter and enable consumers to recoup the cost – and she has failed miserably,” Ms Sharpe said.
“Regional communities will be paying more for every drink but have nowhere to get their refund.
“People in regional NSW who are trying to do the right thing by the environment are going to have to get in the car and drive long distances to drop off their containers. For many people that will hardly be worth the cost and they will give up.”
A map of collection points is available at returnandearn.org.au.