'Reverse vending machine' to encourage recycling launched at Waterway Point

A "reverse vending machine" at Waterway Point's FairPrice Finest outlet identifies, sorts, and collects used cans or bottles of drinks which are then sent to to recycling plants in neighbouring countries.
A "reverse vending machine" at Waterway Point's FairPrice Finest outlet identifies, sorts, and collects used cans or bottles of drinks which are then sent to to recycling plants in neighbouring countries.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Waterway Point's FairPrice Finest outlet now boasts a "reverse vending machine" to encourage recycling.

Instead of spitting out cans or bottles of drinks, it will identify, sort, and collect used ones which are then sent to recycling plants in neighbouring countries.

The installation of the machine on Tuesday (Jan 9)  is part of a collaboration between food and beverage company, F&N, supermarket chain, NTUC FairPrice,  Frasers Centrepoint Malls and Incon Green Singapore, supplier of the machine.

The process is simple: insert the can or bottle bar code-up, tap a green "Get Now" button, and tap "Cash Coupon" to print and collect a reward receipt.

With every five bottles or cans, a customer can claim an F&N product discount coupon.

Two more machines are located  at Yew Tee Point and Bukit Merah Central FairPrice outlets, F&N said.

The discount coupon can be used at the three outlets with the machine installed.

"The machines were convenient and simple to use," said 32-year-old housewife Gillian Low, who passed by the launch and tried it out.

Reverse vending machines have been around from as early as 2009.

The new Incon Green model has a software management system that collects data from every machine, said the company's chief executive officer and managing director, Mr Jack Lee.

"We are able to tell straight away if there is an error. For example, an alert will be sounded to us when a machine is 80 per cent full, so our employees can come to clear it away," he said at the launch.

The firm currently has 10 machines island wide.

Machines, like that at FairPrice, cost more than $10,000, while other high-end versions can be more than $100,000. They can rake in an average of 150 bottles per day, said Mr Lee. In a pilot test, conducted four months ago with another client, around 50,000 bottles were collected within three months.

There are peak recycling hours, he said, such as just after office hours or on the weekends.

Using data gathered from its machines, Incon Green also discovered that people in their 30s and 40s used them the most.

Mr Lee said consumers responded more to incentives when asked to recycle, noting that there was now a 50 cent rebate for every five bottles or can recycled.

"It's a win-win situation," he said.

Mr Tng Ah Yiam, FairPrice's deputy chief executive, said he hoped the young would take to the machines.

"We see that the timing is right," said Mr Tng. "The young are very conscious about protecting the environment and recycling initiatives."

At the launch, F&N general manager Jennifer See said: "At F&N, we believe that simple green habits can be encouraged and developed successfully over time. With this initiative... consumers can recycle the cans and bottles at their convenience when they go shopping for groceries."