Editorial Feature

Getting Something for Nothing: Reverse Vending Machines

Introduction: What is A Reverse Vending Machine?
How Does A Reverse Vending Machine Work?
Where Can I find A Reverse Vending Machine?
Innovations and Companies Involved In Reverse Vending Machines
Sources

Introduction: What is A Reverse Vending Machine?

It is a simple transaction that dates back decades: handing in old bottles to be reused in exchange for a small amount of change. In USA this was seen as the norm for many years, and glass drinks bottles were commonly reused over and over again. This all changed in the 1930’s with the introduction of steel cans for soft drinks and eventually beer. These cans were advertised as ‘convenient’ because people did not have to worry about returning their empties. The popularity of these non-returnable cans grew, leading to the demise of the reusable glass drinks bottle in the early 1960’s.

Now the environmental benefits of reusing our waste are known, this long-standing, small-scale recycling is now getting a modern revamp with the widespread introduction of reverse vending machines.

Reverse vending Machines are so called because they accept post-consumer containers and pay out a certain amount of cash depending on the size of the deposit-the opposite of a traditional vending machine.

Though these machines have been implemented in Europe since the 1970’s, they are still seen as a new phenomenon. This article aims to explain how to use a reverse vending machine, where to find one, and also what the benefits of using them are.

Earn money from your old bottles using reverse vending machines. Image credit: http://www.deq.mt.gov

How Does A Reverse Vending Machine Work?

Reverse vending Machines will vary slightly depending on your location and the material you wish to recycle, but in general the following simple steps are taken:

  1. Find a machine that accepts the material you wish to recycle. It is important that there is no cross contamination of materials, as this can then lead to a batch of recycling being ruined.
  2. Enter the bottles into the machine chute one at a time. The display panel on the front of the machine will keep count of the number of items deposited.
  3. Check the machine display is correct, and then hit the button on the front of the machine.
  4. The machine will then print out a receipt with a cash value on the front. This amount can be redeemed for cash at a till within the store.

Modern reverse vending machines have the capability to not only collect used containers, but also identify and sort them. For example, if the wrong type of bottle is entered into a machine, then it will be rejected and returned to the user. The machine will rotate the item to read its barcode, using an omnidirectional UPC Scanner, and then deposit it in the correct place.

After the cans are correctly sorted, then the machine will crush them to around a tenth of the original size of the item.

Bottles are carefully stored in the machine and can then be collected for reuse.

Some machines can also be operated at remotely, and the machines can also store relevant information about the types of material being recycled for national statistics.

Most states in America gives 5 cent per bottle, where there is a bottle bill in place, though there are exceptions to this, with the state of Michigan giving 10cents per bottle.

Where Can I find A Reverse Vending Machine?

There are 100,000 reverse vending machines installed throughout the world and they are especially common in places which have mandatory recycling. Reverse vending machines are very popular in US states which have ‘bottle bills’, or more correctly ‘container deposit laws’. There are around 10 US states and 8 Canadian provinces with such laws, which require a refundable deposit on containers to encourage recycling.

Reverse vending machines are commonly found in supermarkets. For example, Wal-Mart stores have reverse vending machines installed in the car park, as do many IKEA stores across Europe.

The machines can also be found in schools; the first of these in a UK school came in 2010, with the introduction of a reverse vending machine in a school in Peterborough.

In July 2012, China introduced its first reverse vending machines in Beijing. Over 100 are being installed and for every PET bottle that is recycled, people will receive around 1mao off their subway travel.

Similar machines have also been installed in Brazil and Japan.

Innovations and Companies Involved In Reverse Vending Machines

Reverse vending machines are now big business, and below is a list of just a few of the companies involved in making them.

  • GreenOps
  • reVend
  • TerraCycle
  • Tomra
  • Envipco

Improvements to reverse vending machines are being made all the time, and the British based company reVend has just introduced the world’s first light-bulb ready reverse vending machine.

Sources

http://www.reversevending.co.uk/

http://www.bottlebill.org/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/04/beijing-recycling-banks-subway-bottles?newsfeed=true

http://news.discovery.com/tech/wal-mart-machines-pay-for-trash.html

http://earth911.com/news/2010/04/28/reverse-vending-machine-rewards-you-for-recycling-on-the-go/

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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