Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Ursula Bach

Reverse vending machines reward recycling

New vending machines around the city of Sydney, Australia, will reward citizens for depositing empty plastic bottles and cans. The machines, located at Circular Quay and Haymarket, are a fun and easy way to encourage visitors and locals to recycle their drink containers.

Currently 15,000 bottles and cans are littered or thrown into landfill every minute across Australia. People who deposit bottles and cans in the reverse vending machines will not only be keeping the streets and the harbour clean, they will be rewarded with a small gift or charity donation.

Image courtesy of City of Sydney

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said only about 42 per cent of bottles and cans are recycled annually in New South Wales (NSW) and the city is working hard to raise that figure through a range of new initiatives.

“These are vending machines with a twist that will encourage Sydneysiders to be even better at recycling plastic bottles and aluminium cans,” the Lord Mayor said. “The machines offer a small reward for people who make the effort to recycle. We’re trialling these reverse vending machine and I hope this new idea will capture the attention of our residents and visitors.”

Sydney’s reverse vending machines can hold up to 2,000 containers each before they need to be emptied. Prizes offered by the machines during the trial include entry into a draw for two tickets to Sydney New Year’s Eve Dawes Point viewing area, two-for-one food truck vouchers or a 10 cent donation to charity.

Clean-Up Australia figures show beverage containers account for over one third of all reported reuse in NSW. There are around 40,000 injuries from broken glass bottles in Australia a year and 5,000 of these injuries require medical treatment.

The city is calling for the introduction of a national container deposit scheme as a long-term, sustainable solution to the problem. South Australia’s scheme has achieved recycling rates of up to 90 per cent – double the rate of NSW.

The European Green Capital Award promotes ways to achieve sustainable, green cities that will be able to face the challenges of the future. Waste production and management practices are one of twelve environmental indicators examined by the European Green Capital Award.

A Source Separation Food Waste and Plastic Packaging (SSFP) project was implemented in Oslo, one of the 2016 shortlisted cities, in 2009 to reach the goal of 50% recycling. It was introduced gradually to enhance the already existing separate collection of several other waste fractions.

A vital part of the successful expansion of the source separated collection was the need for concurrent effective communications with householders. The need to raise awareness on ‘how to’ and ‘why’ separate was highlighted at an early stage in the process. Extensive information campaigns were carried out including: distribution of hundreds of thousands of brochures, large advertising campaigns in the media and in public spaces, engaging celebrities to advocate for source separation, and approaching people directly.