Iceland launches plastic bottle recycling trial at Belfast store

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Iceland’s Park Centre store staff with the new reverse vending machine | Credit: Iceland

Retailer also extends trial of deposit return scheme for another six months at four stores in England, Wales, and Scotland

Iceland has unveiled what it claims is Northern Ireland’s first in-store reverse vending machine for plastic bottles as part of a six-month recycling trial launched today.

The frozen food retailer said it would be trialling the machine for six months at its Belfast Park Centre store in a bid to “further understand consumer appetitive” for such plastic recycling initiatives.

The deposit return scheme (DRS) rewards customers for recycling by providing a 10p Iceland voucher in return for each empty plastic bottle deposited.

It follows Iceland’s first UK in-store reverse vending machine trial, which was launched last year and saw more than 310,000 plastic bottles recycled over a six month period.

In November last year more than 2,500 bottles were recycled across the four sites of the trial each day, refunding an average of £250 in coupons to users, the retailer said.

Following the success of last year’s trial – which took place at four Iceland stores in Wolverhampton, Fulham, Mold in Wales and Musselburgh in Scotland – Iceland said it was extending the pilot for another six months to collect more customer behaviour data.

Defra is planning to launch a consultation over the potential role DRS could play in boosting recycling rates, while other retailers, such as Morrisons and Co-Op, are similarly trialling reverse vending machines. Last month recycling specialist Greenredeem also announced plans for the largest DRS trial yet, with 50 machines set to be installed across the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead.

Iceland’s Belfast store trial, however, is believed to be the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

Richard Walker, Iceland’s managing director, said the company’s reverse vending machines had received “overwhelming consumer support”, demonstrating a clear appetite for improved in-store recycling and deposit return schemes.  

“We have expanded our trial to Northern Ireland to ensure our trial is as robust as possible and is representative of customers from across all of the UK,” he said. “The findings will inform future Iceland initiatives and planned roll-outs of recycling schemes, empowering retailers and consumers to tackle the scourge of plastics, head on.”

Iceland said it would be sharing the results of the Northern Ireland trial with local councils and NI’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Last year Iceland became the first UK retailer to pledge to entirely eliminate plastic packaging from its own label products by 2023, and was among the first to use a new ‘plastic free’ label on its goods.

It also vowed to remove palm oil from 100 per cent of its own-label products by the end of 2018 amid fears over deforestation in Asia.

However, Iceland faced criticism last week after the BBC found it was still selling several products in its stores which contained palm oil that had previously been branded as own-label products.

The retailer explained that it “was not possible to remove palm oil at a manufacturing level in these products” by the December 31 deadline, and it had therefore dropped the Iceland name from 17 palm oil-containing products as it did not want to “mislead consumers”.



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