A recycling reverse vending machine that rewards users for recycling used empty cans, plastic bottles and cups has achieved a 98% recycling rate in less than two months at a comprehensive school in Peterborough.

Orton Longueville School, which houses over 1,220 students from the ages of 11 to 18, implemented the ‘reVend’ reverse vending machine (RVM) from Reverse Vending Corporation in a bid to prevent litter and reduce waste on its premises.

The RVM works by rewarding students with incentive vouchers that they can exchange for healthy food or drinks in the school canteen every time they deposit a used beverage container (UBC) in the machine.

The machine uses advanced technology to identify, sort, collect and process the UBCs – built-in software recognises and separates steel and aluminium cans, PET plastic bottles and vending cups. The machine can compact cans and plastic bottles to one tenth of their original volume, and most materials including vending cups can be shredded.

Once the material is processed, it is held in a storage container within the RVM before being collected by local waste processor Cleanaway. Collected materials are taken to Cleanaway’s processing plant at Raleigh in Essex, reducing the need for waste skips at the school.

The school previously required three waste skips per month but this has now been reduced to two, resulting in cost savings of around £2,500 a year which has more than offset the cost of the RVM.

So far, a 98% recycling rate has been achieved in less than two months, compared to zero recycling before the machine’s installation. The school also reports that its previous litter problems have almost disappeared, leaving caretakers more time to spend on school maintenance and other duties.

The school can access detailed recycling statistics on the amount of UBCs being processed by the RVM as the machine electronically records material type and counts items recycled. Detailed and auditable recycling statistics are automatically recorded, providing real data flow statistics, and this information is sent to Reverse Vending Corporation via an internal modem.

Educational benefits

Councillor Geoff Ridgway, Peterborough City Council’s cabinet member for education & children says: “This is a great initiative. We are keen to encourage youngsters to develop recycling habits from an early age and hope that this installation is a big success.”

Stephen Hall, director of Reverse Vending Corporation, says: “The recycling RVM encourages students to recycle their used drinks cans, bottles and cups, helping to combat the litter problem in most schools and reduce the volume of waste that requires disposal in expensive waste landfill sites. Also, the RVM machines help students become involved in recycling and environmental issues.”

The school received help in financing the RVM from Siemens Financial Services. Siemens constructed a financial package allowing the school to spread the cost over a five-year period by leasing the equipment. This meant that the savings from reduced waste skip hire and landfill costs would offset the monthly cost.

The RVM installation at Orton Longueville School is the first of its kind in the UK. RVC is now set to install more RVM recycling machines in other sectors including retail, businesses and government.

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