ACT local launches recycling micro-business to give back to the community

ACT local Ryan Gilligan has had a passion for recycling since he was young. When he graduated from school in December 2020, he wasn’t able to find employment so his mum and his NDIS support mentors helped him set up his own container recycling micro-business—RecycleAbilities.

“Ryan aspires to full-time employment like his brothers and he wanted to be out and about working for his community,” said Corinna, his mother.

With support from his friends and family, Ryan realised he could combine his enthusiasm for recycling at home and his love of order and sorting.

“Ryan and his circle came up with the idea of offering a drink container pick-up service for local individuals and companies,” said Corinna.

“Ryan loved the idea and got right into it. He started by collecting from family, friends and neighbours.”

RecycleAbilities now collects bottles and cans from over 40 locations, three days per week. Ryan then returns the containers through the ACT Container Deposit Scheme for a 10c refund for each.

“When he started, he was transporting containers in the back of my car or his mentors’ cars. Now he has a little white van with RecycleAbilities magnets on the side panels,” said Corinna.

Sorting the containers at his local cash-back depot, run by network operator Return-It, is Ryan’s favourite part of the process. The kind and helpful staff at the Cash-back Depots make him feel welcome and special. Even though Ryan is mostly non-verbal, he often says ‘Return-It depot—I love it!’

“He puts on his noise-cancelling headphones and methodically works through the sacks of containers. His mentors assist him, and create a bridge between him and other people, enabling Ryan to showcase his many talents and skills, and facilitate the odd conversation,’” she added.

In the last two years, the micro-business has recycled 218,294 containers through the ACT Container Deposit Scheme. From the funds raised, Ryan has donated $6,680 to various charities including ACT Wildlife, ACT RSPCA, OZ Harvest, Foodbank, Oxfam, Australia, Care- Ukraine, Fred Hollows and Room to Read Australasia. The container refunds have also helped cover his set up and running expenses.

“Ryan is a happy and motivated young man with a valued role in his community. He loves what he does and feels like he has a purpose in life. And the ACT Container Deposit Scheme has enabled him to work towards financial independence,” his mum said.

To learn more about RecycleAbilities, visit

Interested in fundraising through the ACT CDS like Ryan and RecycleAbilities? Find out more on our Community fundraising page

The ACT CDS is a partnership between the ACT Government, scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator Return-It.