The NSW Government’s new Return and Earn scheme is designed to cut the amount of litter from drink containers ending up in the environment.
But the location of a can and bottle collection point at Fairy Meadow Woolworths has created a new environmental headache for nearby residents.
Since December, dozens of Daisy Street residents whose houses back on to the Woolworths car park have had to contend with the sound of bottles and cans being tipped into Cleanaway pick up trucks up to three times each day.
Corinne Cortese, who lives in a townhouse behind the bins, says the pick-ups have started as early as 6am some mornings.
“Just this week, the Cleanaway truck parked underneath our fence at 7.30 on Sunday morning and then they start emptying glass bottles,” she said.
“My daughter was playing on our patio, and she nearly had a heart attack. It’s like water torture, hearing the bottles drop in there all day – and then when they empty the bins it goes for about 20 minutes and it’s just so loud.
“We knew Woolies was there, obviously, when we purchased the house, but we didn’t know there was going to be essentially a tip installed next to our property without anyone even telling us.”
According to the latest data, 370,463 containers have been returned at Fairy Meadow Woolworth since December 1.
Residents have been trying to make their complaints about the noise heard for several weeks, but have been passed around between different government agencies and companies who share responsibility for the Return and Earn scheme.
“It’s one of those things where Cleanaway says ‘we get our directions from Woolworths,’ and then Woolworths says they have no control over the process,” Ms Cortese.
“It’s a shame that such a good initiative has been implemented so thoughtlessly.
“It’s almost like they’re trying to stop one lot of pollution with another one – the physical exhaust pollution from the trucks, and then the noise pollution.”
After being contacted by residents, Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the bins had been put in the car park under exempt or complying development rules, which mean the council had no say over their location.
However, he said he was looking into the powers the council may have to help the residents.
“I went and had a look at the bins, and while I have no power in this regard, I do feel it is inappropriate,” he said.
“I think this could have been handled better, especially if it’s disrupting people’s sleep.”
Cleanaway, Woolworths and the NSW EPA were contacted for comment, but did not respond by the Mercury’s deadline.
However, a Woolworths spokeswoman said the issue had been “escalated” to Cleanaway.