The supermarket chain has installed reverse vending machines – which enable automated collecting, sorting and handling of returned or used plastic bottles for recycling or reuse – at two of its Yorkshire stores for a six-month trial, with a view to a wider rollout.

The machines accept any single-use plastic bottle with a barcode, including products from other retailers and brands, and gives customers either a coupon for 100 loyalty card points for every item they deposit, with a limit of 20 bottles per person per day, or a chance to donate 10p to the supermarket’s partner charity, CLIC Sargent.

Morrison’s corporate services director, Andrew Clappen, said the move proved that the retailer “wants to play its part” in making sure the plastic bottles that it sells are collected and recycled.

Clappen added that the company will listen to customer feedback during the trial as it explores a wider rollout of the reverse vending units, which have been installed in its Skipton and Lindsayfield branches.

The move from Morrisons comes less than a month after the supermarket announced that it would stop offering single-use plastic bags in its fruit and vegetable aisles, in a bid to cut its plastic output by 150 million bags each year.

The chain is currently trialling a month-long behaviour change campaign which sees shoppers given 100 loyalty card points when they bring reusable containers to its in-store meat counters, fishmongers and deli sections, with a view to making the offer a permanent fixture.

Bottling it up

The trial makes Morrisons the latest supermarket in the UK to explore in-store deposit-return systems, after Iceland installed a reverse-vending machine in its Fulham store in May.

The frozen food retailer, which has pledged to eliminate plastic packaging from all of its own-label products by the end of 2023, launched the trial in support of the Government’s recently announced intention to launch a nationwide deposit-return scheme.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced in January his intention to launch the scheme across the UK, after research revealed that just 43% of the 13 billion plastic bottles sold each year in the UK are recycled, and 700,000 are littered every day. 

But while supermarket giants Iceland and the Co-op – the latter is trialling its own version at select festivals this summer – have given their backing to the introduction of a nationwide deposit-return initiative, trade bodies representing brands such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco have lobbied the Government to oppose the scheme and new European Union (EU) proposals designed to boost plastics recycling.

edie’s Responsible Retail 2018

Solving key challenges – including modern slavery, supply chain involvement and the circular economy – will be one of the key themes of edie’s third annual Responsible Retail conference, taking place on 20 September 2018 at 99 City Road, London.

The full-day event has been designed for the retailers, sustainability professionals and key stakeholders that are looking for the information, insight and inspiration required to seize the sustainability opportunity.

Find out more about Responsible Retail 2018 and register to attend here.

Sarah George

Comments (3)

  1. Roger Munford says:

    Well done Morrisons and Iceland. However the government should be making this mandatory and they should have done it 20 years ago. The UK is still miles behind the front runners

  2. Barrie McKirdy says:

    I lived in Austria 15 years ago and every supermarket had a plastic bottle recycling machine where customers received their deposit back when returning plastic bottles. The scheme also handled glass bottles.
    The UK is archaic in this regard

  3. Diego Lavarello says:

    I would like to thank for this communicative information and article. I find this idea excellent, in a transitory period to battle de plastic bottle waste and recycling. I would like to know which are the fabricants of those machines, to propose and copy the same example to other supermarkets.
    Yours faithfully,
    Diego Lavarello

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