It is credited with helping divert millions of tonnes of containers from landfill while generating valuable income for Newcastle's community organisations.
But the Wickham Return and Earn has become a nightmare problem for surrounding residents.
Dozens of shopping trolleys used to transport cans and bottles are left strewn around Albert Street, meanwhile, surrounding wheelie bins and skips are routinely ransacked and even stolen by those looking for extra recyclables to cash in.
That's not to mention the boxes and non-recyclable packaging left scattered across historic Wickham Park.
"We have a beautiful park here that is meant for the community to enjoy but it's left full of plastic, boxes, straws and bottle tops, Great lifestyle of Wickham group spokeswoman Lyn Kilby said.
"The rubbish is coming from everywhere and the problems escalate every week."
The Environment Protection Authority approved the location on the boundary of the Croatian Wickham Sports Club without formal consultation with the council or the community.
Unlike other Return and Earn facilities, the site has poor passive surveillance, is not visible from the street, is dark and requires cars to access using Passmore Oval.
"As a result the EPA's network operator can opt out of cleaning the area because most of the rubbish is left on the oval rather than on club's property," City of Newcastle general manager Jeremy Bath said in a scathing assessment of situation.
"City of Newcastle staff have on multiple occasions suggested to the EPA the Wickham site be relocated to a location such as a shopping centre or supermarket carpark where there are plenty of people passing through, offering passive surveillance to combat illegal dumping.
The residents have been patiently waiting for a solution for almost 18 months. That's more than long enough."
The Return and Earn scheme is delivered in partnership between the NSW Government, scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator TOMRA Cleanaway.
An Environment Protection Authority spokeswoman said a suitable alternative location for the Wickham facility had not been identified.
"The Wickham Return and Earn machine is a well-used site, providing access for thousands of local community members. The EPA and TOMRA Cleanaway recognises that the majority of the community are using the machine as intended," she said.
The spokeswoman said TOMRA Cleanaway had been working with the council, EPA and the sports club to address some anti-social behaviour and litter at the site since September 2022.
Operational hours of the machine were reduced to 8:00 am - 7:00 pm in February this year to mitigate impact on surrounding residents. Signage to encourage proper usage of the site was installed in September.
"TOMRA's cleaning of the site was increased from twice a day to three times each day from 8 July, 2023. Cleaning involves preparing trolleys for collection by local supermarkets, clearing trolleys and bins from the road, and moving these to a designated pickup location. Bins are then collected by the council and returned to owners," she said.
The Wickham Return and Earn site has seen 11.8 million containers returned, equalling more than a million dollars going back into the local community.
Funds raised have assisted groups including the Newcastle Young People's Theatre, PCYC Newcastle, Hunter Horse Haven Incorporated and Nova Women's and Children Crisis and Support.
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