LISTEN - Northern Ireland's first reverse vending machine launched

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Matt Downes, Iceland alongside the stores new reverse vending machine

by Gráinne Connolly

Northern Ireland's first in-store reverse vending machine has been launched at Iceland, in a bid to reduce the impact of single use plastics on the evironment.

The UK's leading frozen food specialist will be trialling the machine for six months at it's Belfast Park Centre store.

The machine gives people the chance to dispose of plastic bottles bought in the store. 

They're then crushed in preparation for recycling.

The installation follows the supermarket’s results announcement of its UK-first trial of in-store reverse vending machines, which saw more than 310,000 plastic bottles recycled over a six-month period.

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.

There's a small reward for those who use the machine, by providing money or vouchers in return for empty containers. 

Matt Downes from the firm has been speaking to Q Radio about the initiative: 

The installation comes in support of the UK Government’s proposed Deposit Return Scheme in England, and were launched after Iceland became the first retailer to commit to removing plastic packaging from all own label products by 2023.

With the objective of understanding consumer perceptions and potential engagement levels, as well as industry and operational insights, the results of the trial have been shared with UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to further support the consultation.

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 for a further six months to collect additional data on the positive environmental impact of a potential national roll-out.

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.”

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