<< back to list

Thursday, 3rd January 2019

Iceland collects more than 300,000 plastic bottles in reverse vending trial

Frozen food retailer Iceland has unveiled the results of its trial of an in-store deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, revealing that the scheme has captured more than 300,000 bottles since its launch in May 2018.

The reverse vending machines offer users a 10p discount coupon for every plastic bottle inserted

The reverse vending machines offer users a 10p discount coupon for every plastic bottle inserted

Launched to show the company’s support for the implementation of a nationwide deposit-return scheme, the trial saw reverse vending machines installed at four stores - in Wolverhampton, Mold, Fulham and Musselburgh - as well as Iceland's head office, in Deeside.

The reverse-vending units, which accept any of the chain’s own-brand beverage bottles and repay users with a 10p voucher to be used in-store for each bottle inserted, have collected 311,500 bottles to date, Iceland revealed this week. Once bottles are captured, they are cleaned and sent to recycling facilities. 

November was the busiest month for the machines, with Iceland customers depositing an average of 2,583 daily across the five sites and redeeming £250 in coupons. In total, more than £30,000 of coupons have been issued to date.

Iceland’s managing director Richard Walker said the results of the trial mark a “significant” milestone in the retailer’s plastic reduction plans. The chain has notably pledged to eliminate plastic packaging from all of its own-label products by the end of 2023.

“Iceland has continually led the way in the fight against the scourge of plastic since making our announcement to eliminate plastic from our own-label product packaging – the launch of reverse vending machine trials in our stores is one sign of this,” Walker said.

“We’ve gained hugely valuable insights into both consumer interest and the functionality of the schemes, and it’s clear from the results that consumers want to tackle the problem of plastic head on and would be in support of a nationwide scheme.”

Bottling it up

Since its launch, Iceland’s trial has received praise from consumers, competitors and Environment Secretary Michael Gove, with Gove dubbing it an “example of a retailer leading the way”.

When the scheme was launched, UK recycling rates for plastic bottles stood at just 43%, with 700,000 being littered every day and 7.4 billion sent to landfill or incineration each year. In stark contrast, a return scheme was introduced in Germany in 2003 and 99% of plastic bottles are now recycled there.

This has led UK MPs to believe that a deposit return scheme could help to boost the UK’s plastic recycling rate to 90% and help businesses repurpose plastic waste streams by assigning them a value.

Gove announced last January that he intended to launch a nationwide deposit return scheme – a policy which was confirmed in Defra’s recently published Resources and Waste Strategy. The strategy, which is the first comprehensive update in more than a decade, states that the Government will consult on the introduction of a deposit return scheme to increase the recycling of single-use drinks containers including bottles, cans, and disposable cups filled at the point of use. However, a nationwide rollout would be unlikely before 2023.

The introduction of a nationwide scheme has been backed by several big-name businesses, including Tesco, Coca-Cola and Merlin Entertainments. Nonetheless, some other firms, including Asda and Sainsbury’s, have expressed caution about a UK-wide roll-out of such a scheme, expressing the view that it is not an overall solution to tackling plastic waste.

Sarah George