Glasgow University first in UK to install ‘reverse vending’ machine

Glasgow University students Tahsina Akbar and Ahmed Prapan with the reverse vending machine. Picture: PA
Glasgow University students Tahsina Akbar and Ahmed Prapan with the reverse vending machine. Picture: PA
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A Scottish university has installed a “reverse vending” machine for the return of used plastic drinks bottles in the fight against plastic pollution.

The University of Glasgow said it was the first university in the UK to install the machine, which will make a donation to charity for every container recycled.

The resulting clean and properly sorted recycling will be a valuable resource, so the machine will effectively pay for itself

Scott Girvan, Glasgow University executive chef

Initially the machine will only accept plastic bottles. A donation in return for each container goes to the Beatson Pebble Appeal, which raises funds for the university’s cancer research.

After a trial period, users will be able to recycle drinks cans as well and will be given cash tokens worth 10p to then use in shops.

The Scottish Government announced in September last year that it would bring in a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and has launched a consultation on the issue.

The university said the trial period would last until the government rolls out a bottle deposit scheme around the country.

Scott Girvan, executive chef of the university’s hospitality services, said: “We’re the first university to bring a ‘deposit-return ready’ reverse vending machine onto our campus.

“During the trial period, we will be monitoring how people respond to the machine.

“This is part of our drive to increase sustainability and reduce waste across the university.

“The resulting clean and properly sorted recycling will be a valuable resource, so the machine will effectively pay for itself.”

The university said the ­system had operated for decades in many Scandinavian countries where recycling rates are about double those in Scotland.

During the trial period, the machine will only accept empty bottles bought on campus, but will go on to accept them from any outlet.

John MacDonald, director of vending machine suppliers Excel Vending, said: “The reverse vending machine has a 360-degree recognition system, so it will pick up the barcode, the material of the bottle, and its size and dimensions.

“It’s easy to use. You just insert the bottle, which is crushed, compacted and dropped into a bag at the bottom. There is enough storage for 800 cans and 400 plastic bottles, which can then be collected.”

Students have welcomed the initiative.