Reverse Vending Machines: What the ScotLibDems are talking about.

– by David Green, Chair of Liberal Youth Scotland

The Liberal Democrats is a party that has delivered the Green Deal for Scotland. The party that has given this country the Greenest Government ever and party are that is leading the Green Agenda.

Indeed, in the Scottish Liberal Democrat 2011 manifesto, the party committed to work towards achieving 0% waste in Scotland.

On that premise, the Scottish Liberal Democrats supported a motion (p.15) during 2012 Autumn Conference to make progress towards a nationwide scheme to deliver 0% waste through the introduction of Reverse Vending Machines.

However…what are they?

Reverse Vending Machines are simple – both in their purpose and use.

Reverse Vending Machines are what they say in the name – quite simply, rather than putting money into a machine for say a 330ml can or 500ml bottle of drink you instead insert the empty bottle or can and are reimbursed with change. See this video here.

Often, but not always, this system is tied into supermarket chains, enabling easy access for users and instead of change in-store credit.

What are the benefits?

The Climate Change Act of 2009 provides for the introduction of this scheme on a similar basis that is seen across Europe in countries such as Sweden, Germany, Norway and Denmark. These countries have had this system in use nationwide for decades where they are not only popular but effective.

The benefits are clear:

  1. A financial reward via the machine would encourage the individual to recycle – in particular during times of austerity.
  2. Over  90% of recyclable units are recycled throughout the countries of their use.
  3. Indeed the nature of the system itself will empower the individual to recycle and ease the responsibility on the state. This is not uncommon, the previous generation did it when they were young and even today you collect money in shops when returning BARR glass bottles in Scotland.
  4. However, the compelling argument is the resulting effects to the environment. You just need to look at Scandinavian streets, roads, and waterways to see that litter is rarely left – always picked up.
  5. The resulting aspects of this are twofold: first, the reduction of dangers to young children and animals as a result of left behind rubbish and broken glass. Second, the decrease in need for landfills and therefore the decrease in need for government spending.

Beyond the benefits the system is economic sense. Models across Europe are showing figures well into the black, money that is re-invested into Environmental projects.

Indeed, even a report from DEFRA on the potential for a England wide system show figures well into the black, including environmental savings up to £65 million, Local Authority savings up to £143 million and although the majority of costs are on the producers, they too make profit when the machines are in high usage.

However, in Scotland the SNP have not done enough in government.

Their manifesto from 2011 stated: “pilot a deposit return/reverse vending system for single use plastic, glass and aluminium containers and work with partners in the retail sector to explore options.”

However, the SNP Government has not prioritised this proven system and is failing to meet targets set in the Climate Act 2009

Yet, in 2009 it was a LibDem, Alison McInnes MSP, who spoke about the success of pilot systems in her region.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats will be taking this initiative forward by examining the prospect in setting up a Scheme Administrator, like in Denmark, while also looking at the potential to replicate their legislation to make all possible material standardises for this system.

The ScotLibDems – a party that is reaffirming its green credentials.


David is the current President of Liberal Youth Scotland and former intern for the Highland Liberal Democrats. He is originally from the Highlands but is now a 3rd year Politics and International Relations Student at the University of Aberdeen. David is also a massive Ross County FC fan and recommends you give them a google!

This blog is reporting news from Liberal Youth Scotland. It is not necessarily the policy of other Liberal Youth affiliates, the Liberal Democrat party, or the editorship of the Libertine.


One thought on “Reverse Vending Machines: What the ScotLibDems are talking about.

  1. Reverse vending is a cul de sac in waste and resource management. Its technology for the sake of it.

    Come and speak to CRNS who can take you through the issues and show where reverse vending does work and where it cannot. The future of resources needs more than reverse vending and needs a more holistic view.

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