We’re used to taking from vending machines, but what about giving?
The planet needs all the help it can get, and the vending world has a part to play. Reverse vending machines allow users to easily recycle empty bottles and cans and reward the user with money or coupons to incentivise the process. Several stores across the country have used the machines to great success, and with a focus on climate health increasing, this trend is only set to rise.
But what exactly are reverse vending machines? And how can they help in the fight for recycling?
What are reverse vending machines?
Simply put, reverse vending machines accept empty bottles and cans, and automatically dispense money, vouchers or coupons to the user as a reward. The concept is to encourage recycling among the general public by incentivising the action, whereby also promoting a culture of recycling and reuse.
They are most commonly stationed outside supermarkets or near schools. Many of these machines are now advanced enough to identify the inputted material and sort through it, thus rejecting any materials that it cannot process. However, not all machines are at this advanced level and so users must make sure that the said machine accepts the material they wish to recycle. This is to avoid contamination of the recycling batch, and failure to check beforehand could result in the entire lot being refused for recycling.
How can reverse vending machines help the environment?
- The benefits of recycling vending machines are numerous, the most obvious of which is to make recycling easy and appealing to the public. With consumerism rising and the world’s population exponentially increasing, it’s vital that we avoid contributing to the problem of bloated landfill sites – but also that we preserve what resources we have by using less, and recycling what we do use.
- The process of recycling uses far less water, energy and fossil fuels when compared to manufacturing a bottle from scratch. This will also result in fewer greenhouse gases and pollutants being released.
- Schemes such as this are important for awareness and education, the effect of which shouldn’t be underestimated. Simply by seeing reverse vending machines out and about, and noticing businesses geting involved in these schemes can help build a society more focussed on sustainability.
- Beverage containers often find their way into the oceans, where they can impact marine health in a devastating way. By putting these containers through recycling, we are sending less waste into our already delicate oceans.
The past and future of reverse vending machines
Reverse vending machines are most frequently found in countries where recycling laws are in place and enforced. These deposit-refund systems are commonplace in the USA, Canada, and many European countries, including Norway, which has enforced automated recycling schemes since the 1970s.
Trillions of plastic bottles and cans are produced worldwide every single year. Many are recycled, but there is still much room for improvement. As the world becomes more eco-conscious, the popularity of reverse vending machines is only set to grow as more countries and businesses see its worth in not only improving their green credentials but also protecting the planet’s future resources.
Here in the UK, stores such as Sainsburys and Iceland have run trials of these machines, with plans to extend the program to more stores in the future. Merlin Attractions have also rolled out machines at their parks, including Alton Towers and Thorpe Park. The government announced plans in 2018 to introduce future deposit schemes for single-use drinks containers – off the back of this, we will likely see more of these machines stationed at locations across Britain in the near future.
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