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Iceland to trial Northern Ireland’s first reverse vending machine

UK retailer Iceland has introduced the first in-store reverse vending machine in Northern Ireland as it continues its efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of single-use plastics on the environment.

Reverse vending machines reward individuals for recycling by providing money or vouchers in return for empty containers. Iceland’s reverse vending machine accepts any plastic beverage bottle purchased in Iceland and repays customers with a 10 pence voucher to be used in store for each bottle recycled. The machine will be trialled for six months at Iceland’s Belfast Park Centre store to assess consumer appetite for such a scheme.

Iceland to trial Northern Ireland’s first reverse vending machine
The Northern Ireland installation follows the announcement of the results from previous trials of in-store reverse vending machines in England, Scotland and Wales. More than 310,000 plastic bottles were returned over a six-month period, while in November alone, a daily average of 2,583 bottles were recycled across four sites, with an average of £250 in coupons refunded per day.

The initial trial incorporated England, Scotland and Wales with machines installed in Wolverhampton, Mold, Fulham and Musselburgh as well as a machine for staff use at the retailer’s head office in Deeside.

Following its success, Iceland is extending the trial in England, Scotland and Wales for a further six months to collect additional data on the positive environmental impact of a potential national roll-out over a 12-month period.

The results of the trial have been shared with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to help inform the consultation on a deposit return scheme for single-use beverage containers, which Environment Secretary Michael Gove confirmed in March of last year, though he later added that it would be unlikely to be implemented before 2020. The results of the Northern Ireland trial will be shared with local councils and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Commenting on the trial of the machine in Northern Ireland, Richard Walker, Managing Director at Iceland, said: “The overwhelming consumer support we have received in response to our reverse vending machine trial clearly demonstrates consumer appetite for improved in-store recycling, and deposit return schemes.

“We have expanded our trial to Northern Ireland to ensure our trial is as robust as possible and is representative of customers from across all of the UK. The findings will inform future Iceland initiatives and planned roll-outs of recycling schemes, empowering retailers and consumers to tackle the scourge of plastics, head on.”

Iceland has been a leading voice in the world of business against plastic pollution, stating in January that it would make all of its own-brand products (around 1,400 items) free of plastic by 2023 and adopting the first ‘Plastic Free’ mark in May, informing customers that a product’s packaging has no plastic in it.

However, despite its actions to tackle plastic pollution, Iceland has not signed up to the new UK Plastics Pact, a cross-industry commitment to eliminating ‘unnecessary’ single-use packaging by 2025. Walker told the Guardian that Iceland chose not to participate because its own plastic reduction ambitions surpass those of the Pact.

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