Food retailer Iceland has extended its in-store deposit return scheme trial for drinks packaging, launching what it has described as Northern Ireland’s first reverse vending machine in its Belfast store.
The frozen food specialist will be trialling the machine for six months at its Belfast Park Centre store, “to further understand consumer appetite for the scheme.”
This will build on its existing trial, launched in May 2018, which has seen reverse vending machines installed at stores in Wolverhampton, Mold, Fulham and Musselburgh, as well as a machine for staff at the retailer’s head office in Deeside.
Reverse vending machines reward individuals for recycling by providing money or vouchers in return for empty containers. Iceland’s reverse vending machine accepts any Iceland plastic beverage bottle and repays customers with a 10p voucher to be used in store for each bottle recycled.
According to Iceland, more than 311,500 bottles were returned through the trial during the first half-year of the scheme.
Richard Walker, managing director at Iceland, commented: “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.”
Deposit return schemes are growing in popularity as a means of increasing the capture of recyclable packaging such as plastic drinks bottles by offering a direct incentive to consumers to return their products for recycling, and handing more responsibility to producers and retailers for the material.
Defra has announced that it is considering the introduction of a DRS for drinks containers in England from 2023, among the measures in its Resources and Waste Strategy published last month.
In Scotland, the Government confirmed its plans to implement a DRS for drinks containers across Scotland in 2017. This was followed by a consultation, launched in June last year.
Ministers in Northern Ireland have previously expressed interest in such a scheme, although no formal policy approach has been adopted.
Despite a wide degree of support, critics of the system have questioned whether it is likely to take away material that provides a valuable income to local authorities through existing kerbside recycling systems, and whether it is likely to prove good value for money, given the cost involved in implementing such a scheme nationwide.
Iceland’s trial across England, Scotland and Wales have now been extended for a further six months which will enable further data to be collected and analysed, reflecting a twelve month period.
The results of the latest trial in Northern Ireland will be shared with local councils and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).