Sainsbury's joins list of UK grocers offering reverse vending

UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has joined the growing list of British grocers offering reverse vending machines in store.

The technology, currently in operation in the retailer’s Lincolnshire superstore, enables consumers to recycle plastics bottles and aluminium cans and receive a 5p coupon in return for each item to spend on their Sainsbury’s shop.

Sainsbury’s decision to introduce the technology comes after its competitors, including Iceland, Morrisons, and Tesco all kick-started their own trials using reverse vending machines in 2018. Co-op Food trialled the concept at its pop-up shops at a range of music festivals last summer, and will be doing so again this year.

Such movement by the big grocers comes as the UK government looks to map out a nationwide deposit return scheme that would involve retailers around the country participating in the collection of used drinks vessels. A consultation period on how a scheme might operate ended in May, and the responses are now being considered.

The Scottish government is already a few steps ahead in forming its own deposit return scheme, whereby a 20p deposit will be attached to drinks sold in aluminium cans, glass, and plastic. The money will be refunded when customers return the empty container. Only containers from products that are available to buy in Sainsbury’s can be collected.

Sainsbury’s is trialling the machine in Lincoln for now, but it said via Twitter that it has plans to add the machines to another four stores in the coming weeks, including smaller Local formal shops.

Up to 500 items can be deposited per customer at one time as part of the Sainsbury’s scheme.

Read Essential Retail later this week for a more in-depth look at the rise of reverse vending machines in the UK, and what the retail industry wants to see from an official deposit return scheme.