Trading bottles and cans from fresh produce to combat cost of living

With the rising cost of living affecting many locals, the ACT Container Deposit Scheme is helping keep community pantries stocked in the inner north.

The Ainslie Buy Nothing Group first set up a community pantry in a disused bus shelter, after realising there was a growing need for food support locally. Since then, they have expanded across the Inner North Pantry Network to Braddon, O’Connor and Watson.

The network operates on a “give what you can, take what you need” basis, with neighbours helping neighbours. But to help keep the pantries full and to ensure fresh produce is available, the group began raising funds via the ACT Container Deposit Scheme.

“One of our group members suggested that we ask the community to support the pantry by donating their 10cent-ers. This is been our one constant funding stream,” said Amy Blain, who helps run the Inner North Pantry.

The group has established two drop off points where locals can drop off their empty drink bottles and cans. Amy also picks up containers from neighbours and takes them all to Vinnies Dickson Drop & Go return point.

“The community support has been brilliant. We are delighted that North Ainslie Primary School started collecting cans for the Ainslie pantry this year and have collected 9,970 containers, or nearly $100,” said Amy.

More than $3,600 has been raised through the ACT CDS so far, allowing the group to spend $50 per week on fresh fruit and vegetables from Box Divvy Watson – a food box sharing social enterprise that connects growers and food wholesalers with food hubs in ACT.

“We know that fresh produce is really popular and flies out of the pantries—it’s essential for good health and well-being. We feel this is a great way to turn rubbish into delicious, wholesome fruit and veg we know visitors love and need, but can’t afford,” Amy said.

She added that people are often very happy for their cans and bottles to be donated to the pantry when they might not otherwise donate food or money. “It’s a great way to make better use of recyclables,” Amy said.

Amy said this support is vital as the rising cost of living means that as well as heightened need in the community, fewer people are able to afford to keep donating goods to the pantries.

Find out more about fundraising.

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