Reverse Vending

I was watching the local news on TV late last year and was fascinated by the story of a Hampshire couple who paid for their honeymoon by recycling. They collected recyclable litter for 3 months and fed it into a machine at their local store, receiving points that they converted into 36,000 airmiles for return flights to the USA in business class seats!

Now apart from the fact that they were "cutting cans in half" to cheat the machine, it is a totally commendable effort. To think that they spent their free time picking up litter must have transformed Petersfield, Hampshire, into a rubbish-free oasis, even if only for 3 months.

Interested in how they actually turned their litter into "cash" I had a quick investigation to understand the process. It seems that their Tesco store in Petersfield has an automated recycling point provided by Norwegian recycling solutions provider Tomra. The Tomra Automatic Recycling Centre (ARC) accepts recyclable material and issues Tesco clubcard points which can be turned into airmiles. On page 4 of Tomra's Autumn/Winter recycling news bulletin Return (2Mb PDF) there's a link to a list of Tesco locations where you can find Tomra's automated recycling machines.

It's a shame there's not an ARC at the local Tesco store some 2.3 miles away at "The Meadows", as I would be inclined to use it myself to earn points for food. A cash alternative would be preferable, but I'm sure Tesco would prefer the customer loyalty afforded by the exclusivity of having the ARC in the first place.

So many people want to keep Britain tidy, but it has become an uphill struggle with the demise of people's attitudes, a growing disregard for tidyness as globalisation redistributes people with less care for Britain's streets, cash-strapped councils and their lazy litter picking teams. Let's hope that ARCs and the reverse vending trend is the incentive for ordinary people to clear up their litter.