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First-of-a-kind recycling trial enables consumers to scan a beverage container’s QR-code label or sticker for a monetary reward.

Rick Lingle

July 25, 2023

Here’s a video of how the scheme works.

A small town in the county of Powys, South Wales, UK, is the focus of a digitally-driven recycling program that’s unique in the world.

Those living and working in the town of Brecon — with a population of 8,000-plus — can participate in a Scan|Recycle|Reward digital deposit return scheme (DDRS) trial.

It’s a broad-based trial across drink container and material types that include glass, metal, and plastic PET bottles as well as paperboard cartons. The trial is designed to test how digital technology can be used to encourage more recycling.

The program encourages consumers to claim 10p (about 14 US cents) rewards for recycling each eligible container by scanning a special quick-response (QR) code on the label or sticker with their mobile phones.

Consumers have three ways to recycle the containers:

  • They can recycle at home;

  • They can use bins in two locations around the town;

  • They can hand containers over-the-counter to staff at select stores.

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One of the brand participants is Nestlé Waters UK. All single-bottle sizes of Buxton brand natural mineral water, the largest brand in the UK, are eligible for the program.

Last year the brand achieved its commitment to have the full range of bottle sizes made with 100% recycled PET (rPET) plastic. Nestlé Waters UK reports it has significantly reduced the amount of virgin PET plastic used to make its bottles, helping to close the recycling loop.

The DDRS trial is being led by the DDRS Alliance, in partnership with Welsh Government, WRAP Cymru, Powys County Council, and local retailers.

“We are excited to work on this large-scale digital Deposit Return Scheme trial,”  says Hayley Lloyd House, head of corporate affairs and sustainability at Nestlé Waters UK. “It’s a great opportunity for us to understand how digital solutions may be incorporated into a deposit return scheme and how a digital recycling solution can engage with consumers regarding the bottle-to-bottle circular economy journey to help increase recycling rates further.

“Effective and efficient deposit return schemes have demonstrated that they can help increase the availability of high-quality, food-grade recycled plastic for drinks containers. We hope this trial could inform the development of DRS across the UK.”

Recycling program offers a charitable donation option.

In addition to the monetary and environmental benefits, some consumers may be motivated to participate through a benevolent option.

Cllr Jackie Charlton, cabinet member for a Greener Powys, says, “Although completely voluntary, we are hoping that as many people as possible join in with this exciting trial and benefit from the cash rewards on offer. For every container scanned and recycled correctly, participants will have the choice to ‘cash in’ their reward or donate it to the Brecon Food Bank and the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, our two nominated local charities.

“This trial will help us understand people’s preferred return options for recycling these drinks containers and help us learn more about recycling behavior. This will be the first time anywhere in the world that a whole town will use this new technology and the findings will be analyzed and shared with the rest of the UK, putting Brecon at the forefront of recycling innovation.”

The trial runs for 12 weeks from July 13 to October 4, 2023.

About the Author(s)

Rick Lingle

Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday

Rick Lingle is Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree from Clarke College and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-481-1426.

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