Hackney first in country with recycling refund scheme

Councillor Jon Burke and Jeannette White with the new machine. Pic: Hackney Council

A reverse vending machine which offers vouchers to residents for recycling empty containers has been installed in Hackney under a scheme that is the first of its kind in the country.

A trial has started on a Hoxton estate, exploring the benefits of rewarding people for recycling their cans and plastic bottles.

Councillor Jon Burke, cabinet member for energy, sustainability and community services, said: “By ensuring that recyclable materials are given an economic value, reverse vending has the potential to divert significant amounts of waste away from landfill and incineration, and materially benefit the public.”

Residents bring used food and drink cans and plastic bottles including shampoo bottles to the machine and deposit them. The machine will then print out vouchers which can be spent in two nearby shops.

The trial is run in conjunction with the estate’s tenants and residents’ association as the council tries to analyse the benefits of reverse vending, including reducing the carbon footprint of Hackney’s waste system.

The government will use the trial to assess how similar schemes may work across Hackney and other boroughs.

Reverse vending machines were installed in Germany in 2003, called the Pfand (deposit) system. Customers pay an extra 25c on plastic or glass bottles. The empty bottles can then be returned to the machines in exchange for 25c.

The system has been highly effective in Germany, which currently leads European recycling tables. Recent statistics show Germany recycles 66.1% of waste, in comparison to 43.5% for the UK.

Jeannette White, treasurer of the estate’s tenants and residents’ association, said in a statement: “It’s a great idea and we’ll all benefit from it, now and in the long run. It’s helping the environment, protecting it.”

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