Co-op to host reverse vending machines at music festivals, turning recycled plastic bottles into uniforms

Supermarket Co-op has confirmed plans to host reverse vending machines for plastic bottles and drinks cans at five music festivals this summer, and has forged a partnership to recycle the collected materials into uniforms for staff.

Pictured: Co-op's festival shop at Leeds. Image: Co-op

Pictured: Co-op's festival shop at Leeds. Image: Co-op

Co-op became the first UK retailer to host pop-up reverse vending machines in 2018 at Download, Latitude, Reading and Leeds festivals. It then hosted the machines, which enable automated collecting, sorting and handling of returned or used plastic containers for recycling, at eight events in 2019.

Almost all major music festivals were cancelled in the UK last year amid Covid-19 restrictions. But with several going ahead this year, as all legal restrictions were lifted in England on 21 June, Co-op has confirmed that it will host reverse vending machines at  Latitude, Leeds, Reading, Creamfields and the Isle of Wight Festival.

Two machines will be hosted at each festival and, this year, for the first time, they have been supplied by recycled corporate clothing and merchandise supplier Reborn. Collected aluminium cans will be recycled and sent for reuse in other aluminium products, while collected plastic will be shredded and turned into RPET pellets at Reborn’s new flagship recycling centre in Sarratt, Hertfordshire.

These pellets can then be used to manufacture Co-op uniform items like t-shirts and fleeces, as well as umbrellas, worktops and furniture for Co-op to use internally and at future events.

To raise awareness of the reverse vending offer at the festivals, Co-op will be hosting signage on-site and staff will be wearing t-shirts and hoodies made by Reborn for the events. The 2,450 items of clothing collectively contain 18,000 recycled plastic bottles.

“Festival-goers have previously responded well to the reverse vending machines in our pop-up stores and it’s fantastic that we now have a festival-themed closed-loop system in place for the bottles and cans we collect,” Co-op’s director of marketing experience Amanda Jennings said.

“After facing a global pandemic, the whole world is extremely conscious of cleanliness, and as such, there will likely be an increase in single-use plastic usage,” Reborn’s founder Zak Johnson added.

“It’s really encouraging to see big businesses like Co-op increasingly focus on sustainability and do their part to turn this plastic waste into something useful and long-lasting.”

Earlier this month, Co-op announced plans to roll out an in-store collection scheme for plastic bags and other flexible plastics to 1,500 stores, following a successful trial involving 50 stores in 2020. One of the supermarket’s plastic pledges is to ensure 100% recyclability for own-brand lines by the end of 2021.

National deposit return scheme

In the absence of a national deposit return scheme for drinks containers, Co-op is one of several retailers to have trialled their own offerings, along with the likes of restaurant chain Leon and supermarkets Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Iceland.

A deposit return scheme is set to be introduced under the Resources and Waste Strategy – the first comprehensive update to policy in this field in more than a decade. However, the Strategy has been affected by Covid-19-related delays. Consultations on the scheme began in March, at which point the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed that the scheme would likely not be rolled out nationally until 2024.

Deposit return schemes have boosted the recycling of affected packaging items in some countries by more than 90%.

The UK Government is understood to be leaning towards an “all-in” model for the scheme, meaning that it would cover not only certain plastic bottles but all plastic bottles, as well as glass bottles, aluminium cans, cartons, paper-based coffee cups and pouches.


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This Thursday (29 July 2021) marks Earth Overshoot Day - the calendar date at which humanity will have used up nature’s resource budget for the entire year.  

To mark the occasion and help organisations of all sizes and sectors accelerate the transition to a circular economy, edie is hosting a free webinar at 1PM BST. Hosted in association with Centrica Business Solutions, the hour-long session will feature expert speakers from Elvis & Kresse, ReLondon and Centrica Business Solutions. 

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Sarah George



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