Graphic: Lightning Ridge Support Group
On a blazing hot Saturday morning in Lightning Ridge rising temperatures won’t stop a dedicated team of volunteers from collecting bottles and cans to ‘Return and Earn’ vital funds for the Flying Doctor.
People from the town and surrounding opal fields arrive in cars and utes packed with boxes and bags of bottles and cans to be sorted and sent for recycling in the NSW Government’s Return and Earn scheme by the RFDS Lightning Ridge Support Group (LRSG).
There was no recycling in this part of north-west NSW before the LRSG started the scheme in December 2017 as a way to raise money for the RFDS to provide quality healthcare to people in the bush.
Treasurer Lyn Harding, her husband Terry, and their dedicated team of volunteers, run the scheme two days a week from an engineering workshop owned by retired engineer and LRSG member Ian Scott.
Together they will unload and sort bottles and cans to pay out 13.5 cents for every bottle and uncrushed can. People can choose to donate this, or if they wish to keep the refund, 3.5 cents goes to the RFDS. Those who bring in their recycling can also choose to donate all or part of the money they earn to the RFDS.
Lightning Ridge resident Vladimir Vrtacnick, known as ‘Buddy’, brings his recycling in every week.
“We really depend on the RFDS out here in this community,” he said. “This scheme really is the best; it just makes you feel so good because you know it’s not going to be littered on our beautiful country, it’s going to be reused, recycled, and it will support a good cause.”
In the six months from its launch until June 30 last year the scheme had helped the Lightning Ridge Support Group raise $91,000 to fund the Flying Doctor’s essential work.
“We get great satisfaction, it’s a pride, it’s knowing you’ve done something for somebody else, not just yourself,” Lyn said.
“We used to spend 18 weeks of our year just selling raffle tickets and if we made $50,000 that year we’d think it was Christmas.
“Then last year we made $91,000 and everyone was just so excited because we just thought we would never get there. So we’re hoping to top that.”
The Return and Earn scheme won’t accept cans that have been dented or crushed, so innovative engineer Ian built a can press to pack cans into pallets that can be sold as scrap metal. A palette with around 14 kilograms of cans will earn around $4,000 for the RFDS.
LRSG members and volunteers Christine and Robert ‘Buster’ Shields help out every week because they say Buster owes his life to the RFDS.
He had been mustering sheep on a quad bike in 2009 when he came off and hit his head, broke seven ribs, punctured a lung and ruptured his spleen. The RFDS emergency retrieval aircraft rescued him and he was flown out to Dubbo and then Sydney for treatment.
“The Flying Doctor means a lot to me,” Buster said. “I think it’s just fantastic what they do. If they hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be here today.”