Reverse Vending Machines: A Guide for Retailers

A reverse vending machine is something that accepts recyclable materials in exchange for your deposit to be returned, rewarding businesses and customers who bring their plastic, glass or metal containers back, which also ensures they are sustainably recycled rather than ending up in landfill. 

Not every outlet will require a reverse vending machine and we recommend auditing your outlet to understand the approximate number of containers you anticipate being returned each day and discussing this with any RVM supplier, who would be able to advise if it was an appropriate solution.

Why use a Reverse Vending Machine (RVM)?

RVMs automate the consumer redemption process in store.

This can save valuable labour time, offer consumers a faster redemption experience, and help manage loss-prevention and fraud.

How does a RVM work?

Empty plastic and glass bottles and cans are placed in the RVM by the consumer. The container is scanned and using advanced technology to identify the associated barcode, the container is read and registered against a database. A coupon is printed, offering the customer either a discount or charitable donation. The machine sorts, compacts and stores empty bottles and drinks cans.

RVMs for every outlet type

RVMs come in a variety of forms, from a variety of manufacturers, supported by various servicing and finance options. They vary from the very small to the very big in size, with different levels of specification offering a myriad of features.

Simplistically, there are two key types:

  • “Front-end” – usually smaller machines, with limited “backroom” container handling and storage.
  • “Backroom” – usually much larger machines, standalone, with fully integrated and sophisticated “backroom” capability, including compacting.

Choosing the right RVM for your outlet

The optimal solution for your business should consider:

  • daily/weekly container volumes and mix (glass, can, PET)
  • desired frequency of container handling
  • available space
  • desired customer service level.

It’s also worth giving thought to how you can get even more out of your RVM. Management information RVM providers often offer analytics programs, providing real-time technical service reports and valuable insight on how staff and consumers interact with RVMs. This can help spot trends and drive in-store efficiency and effectiveness.

Voucher integration RVM providers often offer voucher services, offering additional functionality, including being able to redeem deposits across your entire estate.

Enhancing the customer experience with a RVM

The RVM itself could become a key point of consumer contact. Most RVMs now feature digital and touchscreen technology enabling things like brand and promotion advertising, corporate sustainability messaging and charity donation options.

Some RVM providers have gone further and offer consumer app platforms, helping consumers find their nearest RVMs, their opening hours, real-time status (open, closed, almost full, temporarily unavailable) and digital vouchers to avoid the risk of losing paper vouchers.

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