Lidl launches 'uncapped' recycling rewards pilot for plastic bottles and aluminium cans

The supermarket chain has today (8 February) deployed reverse vending machines in its Glasgow stores to offer five pence per container with no limit on the number of items that can be returned.

In a move that will be watched closely by other retailers, shoppers across all 21 Lidl stores in the city will receive vouchers for returning empty plastic and aluminium drinks containers. Unlike the DRS, which adds a deposit to the product price, Lidl's scheme offers a 5p reward per eligible item, redeemable against their shopping or donated to charity.

Person using a reverse vending machine The scheme will accept bottles and cans from any retailer, provided they are clean, uncrushed, and fall within the specified size range of 100 ml to 3L, with a readable barcode. Items excluded from the scheme include dairy products in HDPE plastic, Tetra Pak, paper-based cartons, glass, and pouches.

Richard Bourns, Chief Commercial Officer at Lidl GB, stated, "We’re on a mission to eliminate all unnecessary waste, and with over 95 per cent of our own-brand packaging now recyclable, reusable, or refillable we’ve been making great progress. We know that Lidl shoppers share this passion, and we hope that utilising this infrastructure, which might otherwise have been left dormant, will help to make recycling their cans and bottles even more convenient for them. With our extra incentive thrown in, and no cap on the number of items that can be recycled, it’s a win-win for all.”

The timing of this initiative follows the delay in the rollout of DRS in Scotland, which was initially set to go live last August. By introducing this pilot scheme, Lidl expects to capture 10.5 tonnes of plastic and aluminium using reverse vending machines already purchased.

This is not the first time the budget retailer has opted to test a container return scheme. In 2021, Lidl introduced reverse vending machines into its stores in Dublin, Glenageary and Mayo counties, collecting almost a million plastic bottles and over a million cans prior to this month’s introduction of a deposit return system across the whole of Ireland. The results from this initiative found that typically a reverse vending machine in store will handle 17,000 items per week.

By encouraging customers to recycle through financial incentives, Lidl not only promotes environmental consciousness but also supports community welfare through charitable donations. Of particular interest to both the recycling and retailing sectors will be the impact of this incentive on footfall and consumer behaviour.

The pilot is currently scheduled to run until 11 August. 

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