University installs 'reverse vending' machine to fight plastic pollution

3 July 2018, 12:22

Glasgow University

A Scottish university has installed a "reverse vending" machine for the return of used plastic drinks bottles as part of the fight against plastic pollution.

The University of Glasgow said it is the first university in the UK to install the machine which will make a donation to charity for every container recycled.

Initially, the machine will only accept plastic bottles, with a donation in return for each container going to the Beatson Pebble Appeal, which raises funds for the university's cancer research.

After a trial period, users will be able to recycle drinks cans as well and will be given cash tokens worth 10p which they can then use in shops.

The Scottish Government announced last September that it will bring in a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and has launched a consultation on the issue.

The university said the trial period will last until the government rolls out a bottle deposit scheme around the country.

Scott Girvan, executive chef, retail manager of the university's hospitality services, estates and commercial services, said: "We're the first university to bring a 'deposit-return ready' reverse vending machine onto our campus.

"During the trial period, we will be monitoring how people respond to the machine.

"This is part of our drive to increase sustainability and reduce waste across the university.

"The resulting clean and properly sorted recycling will be a valuable resource, so the machine will effectively pay for itself."

The university said the system has operated for decades in many Scandinavian countries where recycling rates are about double those in Scotland.

During the trial period, the machine will only accept empty bottles bought on campus but will go on to accept them from any outlet.

John MacDonald, director of vending machine suppliers Excel Vending, said: "The reverse vending machine has a 360-degree recognition system so it will pick up the barcode, the material of the bottle and its size and dimensions.

"It's easy to use: you just insert the bottle, which is crushed, compacted and dropped into a bag at the bottom. There is enough storage for 800 cans and 400 plastic bottles, which can then be collected.

"The machine allows greater control of the quality of the recyclable product, which prevents it becoming contaminated and destined for landfill."

Students have welcomed the initiative.

Kate Powell, president of the Students' Representative Council, said: "We are pleased to hear about this development and we are excited about its implementation.

"We hope the university continues to take steps to make our campus more sustainable and environmentally friendly."