The results from a three-store trial of Envipco’s Flex reverse vending machine clearly demonstrate that both retailers and shoppers have embraced DRS enthusiastically and positively.
While Scotland’s proposed Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) has been hitting the headlines for a long time, the only real way to establish how a DRS would work in practice was to actually site some reverse vending machines (RVMs) in Scottish stores – and that’s exactly what one RVM manufacturer did earlier this year.
Working with the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF), Envipco installed its ultra-compact Flex RVM in three stores across the Scottish Central Belt for a three-month live trial from 11 February to 14 May. The trials were supported by recycling company Viridor who collected the recycled cans and plastic bottles from each store.
Only by putting the machines to work in convenience stores would the industry truly learn how they performed in the real world.
The RVMs were sited in three SGF member stores:
- Premier Broadway Convenience Store, Edinburgh
- Nisa Bellshill
- KeyStore Moredun, Edinburgh.
The trials are now complete and the results are overwhelmingly positive. In total, some 57,491 containers were accepted by the Flex machines in-store. Of these, 32,941 were cans and 24,550 were PET containers. That represents an impressive 500kg of plastics and aluminium.
Equally important is the fact that 99.7% of the materials recycled were classified by Viridor as “high quality” and “clean”. This means almost all the materials collected can be truly recycled into new cans and bottles, unlike the vast majority of kerbside collections which get ‘downcycled’ into non-foodgrade containers.
Envipco’s UK Managing Director Spencer Roberts comments: “The results of the trials have been exceptionally positive and demonstrate quite clearly that both retailers and consumers are able and willing to make regular use of RVM technology to dramatically increase recycling rates of high-quality materials.”
Roberts also expressed delight that some 42% of the money that shoppers received back when returning their containers was donated to local charities.
“Shoppers had the choice of taking a voucher to spend their deposit money in-store or donating it to charity. It is a pat on the back to shoppers in the three trial stores that almost half of them chose to donate their deposits to charity,” he says.
The good news didn’t stop there. Almost three-quarters of shoppers surveyed (72%) said they had a “much better opinion of stores with a machine” with a similar number of shoppers saying the Flex machine was “extremely easy” to use.
Importantly, the trials saw a 9.8% increase in footfall as a result of shoppers being able to recycle locally, with many customers saying they previously did not shop at the store.
As for the retailers involved, all three said the trial had been an extremely positive experience with the machines working well, customers embracing the concept and staff finding the Flex simple to maintain, empty and clean.
Abdul Majid of Nisa Bellshill says: “I have to say the Flex machine was very, very efficient and effective with no issues at all. It was very intuitive for my customers to use and it definitely created a talking point in the local area. It was very straightforward for my team to maintain and Viridor did a great job of picking up the recycled cans and bottles promptly and efficiently.
“I was also very pleased to be able to donate thousands of pounds to the St Andrews Hospice, my chosen charity.”
Over in Edinburgh, Linda Williams of Premier Broadway had a similar experience: “It was very easy to use, my customers understood how to use it very quickly and it was universally well received by our local community. Like Abdul, we also raised thousands of pounds for a local charity, the local school in our case, and that was very pleasing as we take our role at the heart of our community very seriously.”
Finally, Asif Bashir of KeyStore Moredun echoed the thoughts of the others describing his experiences of using the Flex as “extremely positive”. He says: “It was well received by the community and we had lots of customers using it regularly. We promoted it on Facebook and were overwhelmed with the response we got. I also have to say that the local area is cleaner than it has ever been with absolutely no can or bottle littering thanks to the trial.”
For Envipco’s Roberts, the results were extremely heartening.
He concludes: “We know that our technology is effective and we know that driving up recycling rates is something that local retailers can help with. To see such positive results from these trials in terms of both the volume and quality of materials recycled and the experiences of retailers and shoppers is just wonderful. We believe the Flex, with its ultra-compact footprint, will be ideal for the majority of Scotland’s local retailers.”