A UK Vending Machine Will Pay You to Recycle Plastic Bottles

A UK Vending Machine Will Pay You to Recycle Plastic Bottles
© Jesse Wagstaff / Flickr
UK supermarket chain Iceland has unveiled the country’s first reverse vending machine. Found in London’s Fulham branch, it provides customers with a 10p voucher for every plastic bottle they feed into it.

The machine is being trialled for six months and has been launched on the heels of the country’s proposed bottle deposit scheme, which would require consumers to pay a deposit each time they purchase a grocery item in a plastic vessel. The legislation will aim to incentivise buyers to return bottles in order to retrieve their money.

Iceland's reverse vending machine © and courtesy Iceland

The government turned to Norway’s recyclable plastic deposit system, called panteordning, for inspiration. The Nordic country has had reverse vending machines installed outside food shops since 1972. The devices provide shoppers with cash or vouchers in exchange for their plastic containers.

The machine provides users with a 10p voucher for every plastic container © and courtesy Iceland

Iceland’s machine has already begun rewarding its clients for recycling. It is set up to scan barcodes so that only bottles bought from within the chain are accepted.

Managing director Richard Walker says: ‘We’re the first supermarket to take decisive action to bring the reverse vending machine into stores, following the announcement of the government’s support for a deposit return scheme in England. We’re doing it properly, through consultation with suppliers and by gaining understanding of how customers will act in response to the machine.’

Iceland's reverse vending machine in Fulham © and courtesy Iceland

Every year, 12 million tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans, with less than half of plastic bottles used in the UK recycled after use. Over 90% of plastic in Norway is recycled.

12 million tons of plastic are dumped in the world's oceans yearly © rey perezoso / flickr

Michael Gove praised Iceland’s step towards incentivised recycling: ‘I applaud Iceland for leading the way with their trial scheme. It is absolutely vital we act now to curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go un-recycled. Support from businesses will be a vital part of ensuring we leave our environment in a better state than we found it.’