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Environment

This Supermarket Is Paying Shoppers to Recycle Plastic Bottles

The supermarket Iceland has become the first in the UK to install a reverse vending machine in-store, in a bid to empower shoppers to cut down on plastic waste from packaging. 

And it's giving people an incentive to get involved, too — handing out 10p Iceland vouchers for each returned plastic bottle. 

The scheme is being trialled in the Fulham store for six months before being potentially rolled out across the country. 

Take action: Call on Governments and Business Leaders to Say No to Single-Use Plastics

“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 Iceland’s managing director, Richard Walker. 

“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,” he said. 

Iceland is going hard against plastic, after announcing it would completely remove plastic packaging from its own label range by 2023. Just last week it also announced the launch of a plastic-free “trust mark” that will show shoppers which products have absolutely no plastic in the packaging. 

Read more: 16 Times Countries and Cities Have Banned Single-Use Plastics

Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage, a campaign group that successfully lobbied the UK parliament to pledge to ditch single-use plastics, said the reverse vending machine would “put the power in customers’ hands to say no to plastic pollution.” 

He added that it would “incentivise them to participate in the proven solutions for a plastic-free ocean.” 

The Co-op has also announced that it will be using a reverse vending machine this summer, at festivals including Download, Latitude, and Reading and Leeds. 

The government also announced in March that England would also be getting a “deposit return scheme”, with the consultation to be held later in the year to decide on the specifics. Scotland also committed to a bottle deposit scheme last year.

Read more: Supermarkets Are Using This New Packaging Label to Eliminate 'Hidden Plastic'

The nationwide scheme would likely involve customers paying a small amount extra when they buy their drinks, which would then be paid back when they return the containers for recycling. It would then be businesses’ responsibility to ensure the bottles are effectively recycled. 

Announcing the plan, environment secretary Michael Gove said: “It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled.” 

Author Bill Bryson, a former president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said at the time that “future generations will look back on this decision as a piece of supremely enlightened policymaking, and one that raises the prospect of the world’s most beautiful country becoming free from drinks container litter at last.” 

Read more: England Is Getting a Deposit Return Scheme for Plastic Bottles and Cans

If the UK did bring in a nationwide deposit return scheme, it would bring it in line with European countries like Norway, Germany, Sweden, and Croatia. And with 10 US states, eight Canadian provinces, and Southern Australia, according to Huffington Post

It varies slightly from country to country, with shoppers in Sweden paying a deposit of 8p, for example, while in Germany they pay 22p. 

And other countries have already found it to be extremely effective. In Germany, it’s helped achieve a 97% recycling rate, while in Lithuania it achieved a 93% return rate in just three years. 

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, which include action on improving life on land and life below water, and on creating sustainable cities and communities. You can join us by taking action on these issues here.