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Iceland have recycled 1m plastic bottles with money back vending machines

Plastic bottles were accepted in five stores located the UK as part of a trial of Reverse Vending Machines

Iceland has recycled more than a million plastic bottles since May 2018 after launching a money back trial to incentivise customers to return their unwanted plastic to store.

The frozen food specialist introduced a Deposit Return Scheme last year, which included vending machines that would pay shoppers in cash or vouchers for their empty containers.

The pilot took place in five stores - Fulham, Mold, Musselburgh, Wolverhampton in May-June 2018, and Belfast in January 2019.

A spokesman for Iceland said: "There are 12 million tonnes of plastic entering our oceans every year so we feel a responsibility both to tackle the issue of plastic packaging, as we are doing with our own label products, and to give our customers the power to make a difference themselves."

It said six months on, customer feedback has suggested a demand for more supermarket-led deposit return schemes, with two thirds of customers using the machines at least once a fortnight, and 75% believing the introduction of 20p deposits on plastic bottles would be a good idea.

Richard Walker, at Iceland, said: "The results from our reverse vending machine trials highlight the growing demand from consumers to have a deposit return scheme introduced across the UK.

"Iceland was the first retailer to trial reverse vending machines and we believe the customer feedback we have received shows that our simple model of accepting all sizes of plastic drinks bottle – and extending this to include drinks cans - is the only sensible way to roll out a deposit return scheme nationally.

"We have more than 950 stores across the UK and with the support of the government we could fit a reverse vending machine in every one of our stores. With over 1 million bottles returned to just five of our stores, the positive environmental impact of having machines across the UK would be phenomenal."

Earlier this month, the Scottish Government announced plans for a comprehensive deposit return scheme that will see a 20p deposit added to the price of single-use drinks containers bought from any retailer.

Large parts of Europe such as Germany and Norway already offer the scheme, that will give the consumer their deposit back when they return the empty bottle or can to the retailer.

While Scotland is likely to be the first nation in the UK to introduce a return scheme, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is currently consulting on a similar initiative in England. 

An “all-in” scheme would apply to almost every can or bottle, whereas an “on-the-go” alternative would apply only to those under 750ml in size that are sold individually.

Three billion plastic bottles could be saved from incineration, landfill or becoming litter pollution through a deposit return scheme, according to the Government.

So far Iceland is the only grocer to offer it, while Canary Wharf in London recently introduced a one-off deposit scheme that will give customers discount vouchers when they return their bottles.

In Germany the scheme has achieved a 98% success rate.


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