Iceland has become the first UK supermarket to install a reverse vending machine to trial the controversial Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) system.
The frozen food giant declared it was “leading the way in reducing the impact of plastic packaging”, with a trial of the machine in its Fulham store in London, which will initially last for six months.
It said the trial would aim to understand consumer perceptions and appetite for the technology, ahead of the launch of the nationwide scheme, which is due to go out to consultation later in the year.
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.
Iceland said it has held “extensive” consultation with suppliers to understand the possible implications to the supply chain.
Iceland was the first supermarket to publically support DRS, along with the Co-op, in November and in January it pledged to eliminate plastic packaging from all of its own label products by the end of 2023.
Last week The Co-op said it would launch a DRS trial with reverse vending machines across four major music festivals in the summer, at its pop-up stores at Download, Latitude, Reading and Leeds in partnership with Festival Republic, Live Nation and Recycling Options.
In February The Grocer revealed Tesco was working on a trial with its suppliers about how a DRS scheme, which is still strongly opposed by some major retailers and organisations like the BRC, could work on a national scale.
Iceland MD Richard Walker said: “The vocal support Iceland has received since announcing our intention to eradicate plastic packaging has shown us there is a huge public will to tackle the scourge of plastics.
“We’re the first supermarket to take decisive action to bring the reverse vending machine into stores, following the announcement of the government’s support for a DRS in England. We’re doing it properly, through consultation with suppliers and by gaining understanding of how customers will act in response to the machine.
“There are 12 million tonnes of plastic entering our oceans every year¹, so we feel a responsibility both to tackle the issue of plastic packaging, as we are doing with our own label products, and to give our customers the power to make a difference themselves.”
Environment secretary Michael Gove, who has been leading the government’s moves on DRS, said: “We can be in no doubt that plastic is damaging to our marine environment. Plastic pollution contributes to killing dolphins, choking turtles and degrading our most precious habitats.
“I applaud Iceland for leading the way with their trial scheme. 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.”