Iceland becomes first UK retailer to trial deposit return machine

May 26, 2018, 11:00 am
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Source: BusinessGreen

‘Reverse vending machine’ is now operating in Iceland’s Fulham store in London, as part of six-month trial

Frozen food giant Iceland is continuing its high profile push to tackle plastic waste by becoming the first retailer in the UK to host a ‘reverse vending machine’ for collecting used plastic bottles.

Shoppers visiting Iceland’s Fulham store in London will be able to use the machine to collect cashback for their old plastic bottles, as part of a six-month trial to see if a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) could work in practice.

Customers depositing bottles in Iceland’s machine will receive a 10p voucher for each bottle recycled, which can be redeemed in its stores.

The trial, announced late last week, will feed into the government’s plans to develop a nationwide DRS to boost recycling rates for plastic bottles.

It follows a series of high-profile environmental promises from Iceland in recent months. In January it was the first UK retailer to pledge to entirely eliminate plastic packaging from its own label products by 2023, and last week said it would be among the first to use a ‘plastic free’ label on its goods.

“The vocal support Iceland has received since announcing our intention to eradicate plastic packaging has shown us that there is a huge public will to tackle the scourge of plastics,” said managing director Richard Walker.

“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 DRS in England. We’re doing it properly, through consultation with suppliers and by gaining an understanding of how customers will act in response to the machine.”

In March Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he would launch a consultation later this year on how a national DRS could work in practice. Solutions on the table include a network of reverse vending machines, such as that being trialled by Iceland, where consumers could recoup rewards for recycling.

A recent YouGov survey suggests the idea has significant support from the public, with almost three-quarters of people saying they would be likely to return plastic bottles and aluminium cans under a DRS if they had to pay a 10p deposit on each one.

Gove welcomed the move from Iceland, describing the retailer as “leading the way” on the issue. “It is absolutely vital we act now to curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled,” he said. “Support from businesses will be a vital part of ensuring we leave our environment in a better state than we found it.”

The move came just days after the Co-op supermarket announced plans to trial a number of reverse vending machines at music festivals this summer.

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