China – Beijing’s vast army of plastic bottle scavengers will get an automated rival later this month when the city introduces its first reverse vending machines that pay out subway credits in exchange for returned containers.
According to an article in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper, more than 100 recycle-to-ride devices will be installed in an attempt to reduce the environmental impact of the informal bottle collection business and to improve the profits of the operator. Donors will receive a small amount of money on their commuter passes for each PET bottle they insert into a machine, which then crushes them to a third of their original size and sorts them according to colour and type.
Subway operating company Incom currently processes 50 000 tonnes of bottles a year, most of which it buys from informal collectors. With the machines, the firm hopes to collect directly from the public and generate extra revenue from government subsidies and sales of advertising shown on the machine’s screens. Similar devices have been used in the USA, Japan and Brazil among others, but some experts are sceptical as to whether the same business model will work in China which already has a vast and highly-competitive PET recycling industry.