23 May 2018 --- Iceland has become the first UK supermarket to install a reverse vending machine in store in support of the government’s recently announced intention to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme in England. The move comes as part of Iceland’s wider strategy to reduce the impact of plastic packaging on the environment.
The supermarket is trialing the reverse vending machine in its Fulham store in London for an initial six-month period.
“Click to EnlargeThe aim of this six-month trial in Fulham is to better understand consumer perceptions and appetite for this type initiative; to obtain insights into the challenges so we can maximize the positive environmental impact of this approach to reducing the amount of plastic currently being wasted in the UK,” Richard Walker, Managing Director at Iceland, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“At the moment, this is the only trial we have planned ahead of the governments’ plans for deposit return schemes in England, Scotland and Wales. We hope by using the insights from this trial that we will be much better positioned to support the schemes in an effective way that works for our customers,” he adds.
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.
“Once a bottle is returned, businesses are then responsible for making sure the bottles are effectively recycled,” says Walker. “Iceland is trialing a machine in store to better understand consumer perceptions. We hope to share some of the findings with the government to ensure the outcome of the wider consultation considers challenges experienced by retailers during early trials such as this one.”
Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs expresses support for Iceland’s latest move. “I applaud Iceland for leading the way with their trial scheme,” he says. “It is absolutely vital we act now to curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled. Support from businesses will be a vital part of ensuring we leave our environment in a better state than we found it.”
The announcement by the retailer is claimed to be another demonstration of Iceland’s dedication to tackling the issue of plastic pollution globally. It follows the pledge made in January to eliminate plastic packaging from all of its own label products by the end of 2023. This month, the supermarket also became the first UK retailer to adopt the plastic-free Trust Mark on its product labels.
“At least one-third of plastics, much of this relating to packaging, is single use and then discarded – plastic bottles are a prime example of this,” says Walker. “In the UK, consumers go through an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year, but more than five billion are incinerated, sent to landfill or left to pollute our streets, countryside and marine environment. This must change and launching the UK’s first in-store vending machine represents our desire to take action and be part of that change.”Click to Enlarge
“The continuing defense of current plastic packaging does not resonate with the consumer; in our extensive consumer research, 80 percent of consumers support the commitment we have made to eliminate plastic packaging, and they want this choice.”
“Through this latest initiative, we hope to help make it easier for people to act in an environmentally conscious way while tackling the threat of the millions of plastic bottles that go unrecycled every day,” he adds.
Hugo Tagholm, CEO, Surfers Against Sewage, also vocalizes support: "A nationwide deposit return system will stop millions of plastic bottles escaping into the environment annually, and stem the tidal wave of plastics swamping our coastlines.”
“Surfers Against Sewage would like to congratulate Iceland on their continued leadership to tackle plastic pollution through the trial of a reverse vending machine to understand how customers will respond to the new system. This puts the power in customers’ hands to say no to plastic pollution and incentivizes them to participate in the proven solutions for a plastic-free ocean," says Tagholm.
It is estimated that more than 12 million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans every year according to Greenpeace, putting the lives of all forms of marine life at risk, from larger animals through to plankton. There are fears that toxins originating from plastics are then re-entering the food chain via seafood.
In April, East London commercial district, Canary Wharf, unveiled the very first UK on-site Deposit Return Scheme machine as part of its “breaking the plastic habit” strategy.
Iceland, which announced in November last year that it is supporting Greenpeace’s call to the Government to adopt the Deposit Return Scheme for bottles, has a long history of campaigning and leading positive change for the environment, being the first UK supermarket to remove artificial flavors and colors from its own brand food and the first UK retailer to commit to removing palm oil from own label ranges.
“We are already on our way with eliminating plastic from all our own label products,” Walker tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “We have already launched product ranges produced using a paper-based tray, rather than plastic. It’s a mixture of tradition versus innovatioClick to Enlargen. Returning back to many of the methods used before plastics, and then the latest innovations in order to replace plastic, which still maintains shelf-life and preserve freshness.”
“The deposit return scheme is another natural progression for us, and we won’t stop here,” Walker concludes.
By Joshua Poole
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