2. Deposit return schemes
Around 1.4 trillion drink containers are produced every year. This is an enormous amount of quality material that can be reused or recycled. Thanks to deposit return schemes, many disposed drink containers are being cleaned, processed back into small pieces of raw material, and made into new bottles and cans.
Deposit return schemes reward recycling by giving consumers a financial incentive to dispose of their drink containers in a sustainable way. The schemes work by adding an extra deposit on top of the price of a drink, which is refunded to us consumers when we return our empty drink containers for recycling, often at a reverse vending machine. By automating the process of collecting, sorting and refunding the deposit for drink containers, reverse vending machines make recycling both time and cost efficient.
Importantly, this process of separating drink containers from other types of waste keeps the containers free from contamination – a common issue in household recycling. This is key because plastic producers need to know the recycled material is safe for food contact: recycling at a reverse vending machine means containers stand the best chance of becoming new bottles and cans, rather than downcycled or landfilled.
Deposit return schemes are instrumental in the architecture of a cycle in which used bottles and cans become new drink containers. Containers can be recycled again and again in a continuous loop, in a clear-cut example of a circular economy. It reduces the reliance on extraction of fossil fuels to create new containers – and saves on the energy required for this process, too. TOMRA, a world leader in reverse vending, calls this process Clean Loop Recycling.