New vending machines to push recycling

Machines at 3 FairPrice outlets collect used cans and bottles, and offer F&N discounts
Raffaella Nathan Charles Straits Times 10 Jan 18;

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 yesterday is part of a collaboration between food and beverage company Fraser & Neave (F&N), supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice, Frasers Centrepoint Malls and Incon Green Singapore, which supplied the machine.

The process is simple: Insert a used can or bottle with its barcode facing up, tap a green "Get Now" button, and then tap the "Cash Coupon" button to print and collect a reward receipt.

For every five bottles or cans recycled, customers can claim an F&N product discount coupon.

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

The discount coupon can be used at the three FairPrice outlets that have the machine installed.

150 Average number of bottles the machines, such as those at FairPrice, can take in a day.

"It is convenient and the machine is simple to use," said housewife Gillian Low, 32, who tried it out.

Reverse vending machines have been around since 2009.

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

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

The firm currently has 10 machines islandwide.

Machines, such as those at FairPrice, cost more than $10,000, while other high-end versions can cost over $100,000. They can take in an average of 150 bottles a 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 weekends.

Using data gathered from its machines, Incon Green also found 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 is now a discount coupon for every five bottles or cans recycled.

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

Mr Tng Ah Yiam, FairPrice's deputy CEO, said he hoped young people 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's 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."