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Reverse Vending Machines - What are they

A reverse vending machine is a device that accepts used (empty) beverage containers and returns money to the user (the reverse of the typical vending cycle). The machines are popular in places that have mandatory recycling laws or container deposit legislation in Europe.

In some places, bottlers pay funds into a centralized pool to be dispersed to people who recycled the containers. Any excess funds were to be used for general environmental cleanup. In other places, such as Norway, the state mandated that a vendor pay for recycled bottles, but left the system in the hands of private industry. The dominant vendor of reverse vending machines in Europe (with 90% market share) is Tomra of Norway.

Reverse vending equipment automates beverage container recycling by accepting containers directly from the consumer, accounting for each container processed, and refunding the deposit to the consumer.

Reverse vending machines were first introduced in to reduce the supermarket retailers' burden of manually redeeming and accounting for empty beverage containers. Beverage industry studies have shown that reverse vending is less expensive compared to the cost of manual, primarily because of space and labor savings.

Reverse vending alleviates the sanitation problems associated with storing empty containers in open storage bins. Empty containers do not have to be manually accepted and sorted by store personnel because they are sorted and accounted for automatically by machine.

Reverse vending offers convenience to the retailers' customers and builds traffic. Retail customers are more inclined to shop at supermarkets with recycling centers; especially if they can recycle with automated equipment they find to be reliable, convenient, accurate and fast.

In a typical deposit law state in Europe, each distributor must collect containers from every retailer to which it sells. Often a beverage distributor type operation collects the empty containers from the retailers.

The reverse vending machines are generally equipped with a laser scanner to read UPC codes. In addition, the machines should have a microprocessor to keep track of the brand and number of containers returned. The systems are generally designed to record the brand and package type (can, plastic or glass), and also to count the containers in each category.

Reverse Vending equipment is an important eco-marketing tool to promote environmental friendly programs and encourage ecosystem protection programs.

The recycling consumer has a convenient and easy method to recycle their used beverage containers. They get a comfortable feeling knowing that they are participating in an environmentally friendly program as well as the cash incentive for returning their used beverage containers.

About the Author: John Hanna was in the Vending Machine and Vending Route business for 15 years until last year when he sold his business and moved to Tampa, FL where he runs a successful consulting business. Visit his other Websites at: and

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