When friends enviously admire Julie Leach’s new tan, they ask if she’s just returned from a trip to Bali or Thailand.

Little do they know, her new bronzed look is the result of countless hours spent sorting tin cans behind her regional Victorian service station.

Over the past week and a half, Ms Leach has collected and sorted around 60,000 cans and recyclable bottles from residents in and around the tiny town of Chewton, an old gold mining town south-east of Castlemaine.

To ensure her bounty isn’t stolen, she’s been sleeping at the service station overnight.

By her own admission, it’s rather unlikely they’ll be taken.

But the benefits those empty cans and bottles are giving her town can’t be overstated.

Ms Leach’s service station runs an over-the-counter service as part of Victoria’s container deposit scheme (CDS), which launched earlier this month.

While some residents are happy to trade their empties for cash, a large portion of the town is donating its funds to local causes.

The CFA in Chewton and nearby Castlemaine have raised around $800 via Ms Leach’s depot.

“At 10 cents a can, that’s around $6,000 back to the community.”

Julie Leach lying on top of a container full of cans and bottles, with a pillow.

Turning bottles into big bucks

Ms Leach has inadvertently turned her service station into a part-time recycling hub since the launch of the CDS.

She’s locked down every available recycling storage container in the region, which is managed by recycling company Visy.

Visy’s general manager for container deposit schemes, Tim O’Donnell, said there had been a great response from the community since the CDS began two weeks ago.

“People like Julie and the broader Chewton community show how small changes can have a big impact in reducing litter and increasing recycling,” he said.

Ms Leach never set out to be an eco-warrior, but said recycling was definitely a “feel good thing”.

“I think, environmentally, having a petrol station is probably not the most ‘green’ thing to do,” she said.

“But this is the way I can give back, my carbon offset almost.”

Perhaps the most pleasing part, Ms Leach said, was the way the community’s actions were changing.

The local cricket club’s latest get together had a four-bin recycling set-up specifically for her collections.

“It’s actually giving me goosebumps [talking about it],” she said.

“Either way, it’s not going into landfill.

“And that’s all money that’s being reinvested back locally, and that’s going to be spent three, four or five times locally.”

Extracted in full from:  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-11-16/chewton-service-station-container-deposit-scheme-recycling/103101892