Co-op to trial reverse vending for plastic bottles at UK festivals

Co-op will become the first retailer in the UK to use reverse vending machines as part of a deposit return scheme from plastic containers, with trials set to take place at pop-up stores across UK festivals this summer.

Co-op will trial reverse vending machines, which enable automated collecting, sorting and handling of returned or used plastic containers for recycling or reuse, at Co-op pop-up stores at Download (8-10 June), Latitude (12-15 July) and Reading and Leeds festivals (24-26 August).

Plastic bottles sold at Co-op pop-up stores will have mandatory deposits added to the price, which festival goers can exchange for vouchers if the items are returned via the reverse vending machines. Bottles collected through these trials, which have been facilitated through a partnership with Festival Republic, will then be recycled to create bottles for Co-op’s own-brand bottled water.

Co-op’s retail chief executive Jo Whitfield said: “As the UK’s leading ethical retailer there’s nowhere better for us to start our trial of reverse vending machines than at some of the UK’s most well-loved festivals.

“Reducing the amount of plastic that makes its way to landfill is really important to us and our members. I’m excited that, in partnership with Live Nation and Recycling Options, we have the opportunity to bring these machines to the UK only a few months after they were officially given the green light by the Government.”

Businesses and consumers will be consulted on the details of how a deposit return scheme would work alongside other measures to increase recycling rates, after the UK Government greenlighted the initiative as part of a wider crackdown on plastics.

Festivals are a unique testing ground to trial how consumers will respond to the scheme. Glastonbury Festival, for example, is banning plastic bottles from 2019, with estimates suggesting that around one million bottles are used there annually.

More than 60 independent British music festivals, including End of the Road, Bestival and Boardmasters, have committed to a programme to ban single-use plastics onsite by 2021.

As for Co-op, the company hopes the trial will help deliver a wider goal to ensure that all own-brand packaging is easy to recycle by 2025. This includes eliminating uses of black and dark plastics, which often can’t be detected by recycling facilities, by 2020.

Co-op at edie Live

Co-op’s environment manager Iain Ferguson will appear on the Resource Efficiency theatre at edie Live to discuss the need for innovation and collaboration to catalyse change across the packaging supply chain to drive sustainability.

Running between 22 – 23 May 2018, edie Live plans to show delegates how they can achieve their Mission Possible. Through the lens of energy, resources, the built environment, mobility and business leadership an array of expert speakers will be on hand to inspire delegates to achieve a sustainable future. For more information click here.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie