Recycle and reward pilot projects report

Exploring incentivised recycling of drinks containers (primarily plastic bottles and aluminium cans)

All of the pilots were in ‘on-the-go’ contexts – in universities, schools, retail locations, a festival and a recycling centre. Eight organisations were supported, providing nine schemes across 12 different sites around Scotland. 

Two of the schemes were deposit return schemes, where consumers pay extra when purchasing an item, and have that amount refunded when they return the container to be recycled.  The other schemes all offered a simple reward for returning a container.  All the schemes used reverse vending machines in their operation.


The volumes of containers sold and recycled across sites varied enormously, as did the relationship between the two.  Some sites were quite isolated, or only accepted containers sold on site into the scheme, while others were very open, and saw on-site containers taken away, and off-site containers brought in.  These contextual factors influenced scheme performance just as much as the actual scheme design.

One consistent measure of scheme performance is the capture rate of containers for recycling as a proportion of those sold on site and performance varied one of the lowest levels recorded was 18% whilst at the top end the three day HebCelt festival  enjoyed a return rate of 63% and one of the school sites which recorded over 100% due to additional material being brought on site.  

The pilots show that incentivised recycling can be made to work, but also that in considering a site-specific solution the planning stage is essential.  Some of the challenges and opportunities encountered would apply to any site implementing incentivised, or machine-based recycling, whether alone, or as part of a wider scheme.

Download the full report

You can read the full report and case studies by downloading them from the right hand column. 

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