Reverse vending machines to boost recycling


One huge challenge for companies trying to re-use materials is encouraging customers to recycle, and making it as easy as possible for them to return used bottles and packaging.

Iceland has trialled reverse vending machines in five of its UK stores, to motivate customers to return used plastic bottles.

Under the scheme, more than one million plastic bottles were returned in just over a year.

How does it work?

The reverse vending machines placed in Iceland stores can accept all sizes of plastic bottles, rewarding customers with 10p per bottle. Customers have the choice of donating Iceland’s charitable foundation, or claimning a voucher to spend in stores. The benefit here is that it makes it easier for customers to recycle plastic bottles, and rewards them for their efforts. Customer feedback has been positive, with 95% in favour of extending this scheme to all retailers.


Who is doing it?

Iceland is the UK’s largest frozen food retailer, with more than 950 stores. It also sells online, and accounts for 2.5% of the UK grocery market. In 2019, Iceland generated more than 1.8 billion items using primary plastic, and 100 million items of secondary and tertiary plastic. Source



Where to start?

It’s a simple idea to execute, and the results from just five stores are impressive, but there is a cost in buying and placing reverse vending machines across hundreds of stores. Iceland has called for government help and funding to enable such machines to be installed across its entire network of stores.


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