Bottle-collecting reverse vending machines (RVMs) at Prisma supermarkets in Estonia will begin accepting for free all metal and plastic drink packaging the characteristics of which have been taught to the machine, allowing consumers to return non-deposit bottles alongside those for which deposits are refunded.
"Millions of plastic bottles and metal cans that to not bear a valid deposit label reach Estonia each year, and tend to end their life cycle either in the environment or in the trash," Kaupo Karba, CEO of package deposit system operator Eesti Pandipakend, said in a press release, noting that 100 million such bottles were brought in from abroad last year.
"Due to the configuration of the bottle RVMs, these could not be accepted until now," he continued. "Now we have finally solved this situation in cooperation with Prisma, and have also begun collecting plastic and metal packaging without Estonian deposit labels and directing them to recycling regardless of the origin of the packaging."
Last month, a pilot project launched by Eesti Pandipakend, Tomra Service and Prisma Peremarket which indicated that consumers are happy to return packaging falling outside of the Estonian deposit-refund system alongside their deposit-labelled packaging without receiving remuneration for it.
Tõnis Tomingas, the member of the management of Prisma Peremarket AS responsible for waste management, said that the solution initiated by Prisma and developed in coordination with Eesti Pandipakend and Tomra is the first of its kind in Estonia.
"Prisma on its part wants to offer all opportunities possible for the proper return of waste," Mr Tomingas said. "It is already possible to bring one's old batteries, smaller broken electronic devices and, of course, packaging to our stores. From now on, we will also offer the convenient opportunity for our customers to return packaging without a deposit label via our bottle RVMs. We hope that Prisma customers will start taking advantage of this opportunity and no longer throw away their non-labelled plastic bottles and cans as part of their ordinary rubbish."
As a result of the change, Eesti Pandipakend hopes to keep some 200,000 plastic bottles and metal cans per month from polluting the environment.
Non-deposit glass not yet accepted
The return of non-deposit bottles works exactly like the return of plastic and metal bottles and cans with an Estonian deposit label, only consumers will not receive a refund for the non-deposit packaging.
Due to the specifics of handling glass bottles, it is not currently possible to return non-deposit glass bottles via bottle RVM, but work to introduce this functionality is underway.
Editor: Aili Vahtla