Plastic recycling: Canary Wharf launches UK’s first deposit return machine

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24 Apr 2018 --- East London commercial district, Canary Wharf, has unveiled the first UK on-site Deposit Return Scheme machine as part of its “breaking the plastic habit” strategy. The move coincides with the UK Government’s strategy to tackle plastic waste by introducing a European-style nation-wide Deposit Return Scheme on all plastic, glass and metal drink containers.

Visitors to Canary Wharf can now recycle their single-use plastic bottles and cans using an innovative Deposit Return Scheme. Positioned in Canada Place, thousands of people who come to Canary Wharf will be able to recycle their single-use plastic bottles and cans in a simple, easy and efficient way.

This automated machine uses an innovative 360-degree scanning recognition system to identify, segregate, collect and process waste drink containers, creating a resource from recyclates that would otherwise likely be incinerated or sent to landfill. The Deposit Return Scheme at Canary Wharf will also have the ability to reward users with vouchers and discounts planned to roll out in the next few months.The machine currently rewards users with a thank you note, although plans are being finalized for the machine to print 5p or 10p discount vouchers, depending on the retailer.

Lugano Kapembwa, Sustainability Manager, Canary Wharf Group says, “We are proud to be the first in the UK to launch the Deposit Return Scheme to give our shoppers the opportunity to recycle their single-use plastic and metal. From our research, we know that visitors to the Estate want to do more for the environment."

“This initiative follows on from the hugely successful ‘Wake Up And Smell The Coffee’ campaign launched last year to recycle coffee cups, lids and coffee grounds at Canary Wharf with 664,285 of coffee cups recycled instead of going to landfill.”

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The UK's first public DRS machine in Canary Wharf

This new initiative comes in direct response to feedback from Canary Wharf’s customer research undertaken last year as part of World Environment Day. Reports indicate that the machine was entirely funded by the Canary Wharf Group. It is estimated that the machines could cost in the region of £30,000 per unit when introduced across the UK.

Currently, only 43 percent of the 13 billion plastic bottles sold each year in the UK are recycled, with 700,000 littered each day, according to the Canary Wharf Group. In Germany, it is reported that 99 percent of plastic bottles are recycled after a similar Deposit Return Scheme was introduced there in 2003.

Norway is another good example of a successfully implemented Deposit Return Scheme. In Oslo, it is estimated that 93 percent of all single-use packaging is collected via Infinitum’s 3,500 reverse vending machines. Consumers receive approximately 2.5 Krone (€0.26) for a two-liter plastic bottle. Overall, Infinitum has a 97 percent hit rate on recycling, including its manual collectors which operate in addition to the Deposit Return Scheme.

The installation of the unit is just one element of Canary Wharf’s 12-month “one-use plastics” reduction and behavioral change campaign. Over the next few months, Canary Wharf will be examining next-generation sustainability issues, with a focus on tackling the complex issue of plastics pollution as they take the lead in the UK fight against single-use plastics (#refuseoneuse). Other upcoming activity in the campaign includes a pioneering total plastic straw ban, an estate-wide single-use plastics audit and a World Environment Day plastics debate.

The Canary Wharf Estate is a commercial district in East London and a major retail destination comprising around five shopping malls, including the award-winning leisure development, Crossrail Place.

The battle against plastic pollution continues to intensify, with an ever-increasing amount of leading companies devising strategies to deal with the threat. The world’s largest food and beverage company, Nestlé, has announced ambitions to make 100 percent of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. In similar moves, Iceland became the first UK supermarket to eradicate plastic from all its own-brand products by 2025, while Dutch organic supermarket chain, Ekoplaza, opened the world’s first plastic-free aisle. In the restaurant sector, McDonald’s promises to discontinue use of plastic straws in all of its UK restaurants, while Leon restaurant chain has already replaced plastic straws with biodegradable alternatives.

Meanwhile, The UK government claim that the introduction of the 5p plastic bag charge has led to the distribution of nine billion fewer bags across the nation. It makes up part of the Conservative government’s strategy to abolish all plastic waste by 2040, a pledge which has already seen the ban of microbeads and, more recently, plans to launch a tax consultation of single-use plastics and a proposed ban on all plastic straws, drink mixers and cotton buds.

In other recent news, the discovery and modification of a PET-digesting enzyme has led the industry to reevaluate the role nature can play in breaking-down plastics.

By Joshua Poole

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