Pick n Pay incentivises recycling through its vending machines

The new reverse vending machine at PnP Canal Walk. Picture: Supplied

The new reverse vending machine at PnP Canal Walk. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 19, 2024


Pick n Pay and Polyco are providing alternative solutions to combat pollution and encourage environmental sustainability by introducing 10 more reverse vending machines (RVMs) in stores across Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

The purpose of RVMs is to incentivise customers to recycle their waste in exchange for digital cash and vouchers, in order to drive awareness and engagement of environmental stewardship.

Pick n Pay piloted an RVM in 2018, and its success led to the operation of another four machines. Now 10 more stores are receiving RVMs, and about 20 more are scheduled to be rolled out mid-year through a supplier partnership.

The RVMs will be linked with the store’s Smart Shopper points, which will be introduced later in the year, and when consumers deposit recyclable materials such as plastic, glass and aluminium in the machines, they will receive rewards to spend on the Imagined Earth app with various rewards partners.

All recyclable materials can be deposited in the vending machines, provided they have a barcode to identify the product.

Sustainability manager at Pick n Pay, Steffen Burrows, explained the strategic placement of RVMs within store perimeters, to make recycling convenient and emphasise its importance.

“We really want to instil a responsible recycling culture in our customers by offering an incentive. We find our customers are already motivated to reuse and recycle, but we wanted to change the culture more widely,” he said.

When shoppers discard materials, rewards are determined on the weight and type of material deposited, with prices averaging around 10c for a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle, 15c for a can and 11c for a glass bottle. One of the most popular rewards shoppers buy with their recycling rewards is data and airtime.

Burrows noted recycling in exchange for cash encourages consumers to partake in the circular economy.

“The value assigned to each waste item rewards customers and educates them on the significance of a circular economy. Recycling generates revenue and creates much-needed jobs, and significantly reduces waste that goes to our landfill,” he said.

The machines at each store accept between 650 and 750 waste items. The waste management provider is notified when they need to be emptied, and waste is then sent to the correct recycling facilities.

In addition, the partnership of the two brands has birthed school campaigns: Polyco’s Million Plus and Pick n Pay School Club campaigns, in donating school supplies made from recycled materials.

“We also collaborated through their Pick n Pay School Club to provide 2.6 million learners and over 140 000 educators across 2 600 schools, by providing plastic recycling educational material, infrastructure and awareness to instil recycling behaviour at a young age,” said Polyco CEO Patricia Pillay.

Pillay said their campaign aims to incentivise shoppers to be environmental activists. “Through Polyco’s Million Plus campaign, we are aiming to get millions of South Africans to join the plastic recycling movement. Only at scale can we end plastic waste and create a healthier world for everyone,” she said.

For consumers to utilise the vending machines, they must enter their cellphone numbers and follow instructions.

RVMs can be found in Pick n Pay stores across the county, such as Fourways and Benmore in Gauteng, Umhlanga Crescent and Hilton Avenues in KwaZulu-Natal, and Canal Walk and Durbanville in Cape Town.

The Star