Pick n Pay pilots new ‘reverse vending machines’ to encourage recycling

In a move towards environmental sustainability, Pick n Pay has teamed up with Polyco to utilise technology and incentives to foster a recycling culture throughout the country.

The retailer has achieved this by installing an additional 10 reverse vending machines (RVMs) alongside its existing ones, with another 20 scheduled to be rolled out by mid-year.

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These machines have been installed in stores across Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, and the Western Cape. The RVMs currently incentivise customers to recycle their waste in exchange for digital cash and vouchers, thereby driving engagement and raising awareness of environmental stewardship.

Rewards

When customers deposit recyclable materials such as plastic, glass, and aluminium in the machines, they receive rewards in the form of cash or vouchers to spend in the Imagined Earth app, which offers various rewards from partners. Any recyclable item can be disposed of in the machine if it has a barcode to identify the product.

In a statement released on Global Recycling Day, the retailer announced that Smart Shopper points will be introduced later this year, with the machines automatically linking to the Smart Shopper Pick n Pay app for easy redemption.

The rewards are calculated based on the weight and type of material deposited, with typical rates averaging around 10c for a PET bottle, 15c for a can, and 11c for a glass bottle.

Among the most popular items customers purchase with their recycling rewards are airtime and data.

Regarding the positive impact of installing the RVM machines, Steffen Burrows, sustainability manager at Pick n Pay, said: “The value assigned to each waste item rewards customers and educates them on the significance of a circular economy. Recycling generates revenue and creates much-needed jobs, and significantly reduces waste that goes to our landfill.”

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Each machine can store between 650 and 750 waste items, equivalent to around 375 two-litre milk bottles. These machines are equipped with sensors to monitor their capacity and automatically alert the waste management provider when they need to be emptied. The recyclable waste is sorted manually off-site, and the materials are then sent to the appropriate recycling facilities.

Polyco’s CEO, Patricia Pillay, said: “Through Polyco’s Million Plus campaign, we’re aiming to get millions of South Africans to join the plastic recycling movement. Only at scale can we end plastic waste and create a healthier world for everyone.”

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