Harald Henriksen, head of the world’s biggest reverse vending machine operator, has said the UK is lagging behind other countries including Germany on introducing more deposit and return schemes that are engaging for consumers and will help tackle ocean pollution.

He said in some parts of the world people are now paid deposits via PayPal for the return of plastic bottles to shops under innovative schemes being introduced to combat waste.

The head of collection solutions at Norway-headquartered Tomra, who was in Glasgow to address at the Scottish Grocers Federation conference, said that the UK could radically boost its recycling rate by establishing more deposit and return options.


Mr Henriksen, above, said one example is that the UK currently recycles just over half of the plastic and aluminium recycled in Germany, adding that easy to use systems are essential to ensure the public would be interested.

He said: “If you have in place a good system then you can achieve very high collection.

“It is about running the system as efficiently as possible and at the same time bringing enough awareness around it to make it engaging for the consumer.”

He said the success of the system is connected to the billions of people he says have taken items back to be recycled.

“You know 2.5 billion times a year someone is actually entering a retail store to use the machine.”

Founded in 1972, the company has revenues of 7.4bn NOK (£694 million) and employs 3,550 people.

Tomra has an 80 per cent share of the global reverse vending machine (RVM) market.

The machines the company designs and manufactures enable more than 60 deposit return schemes globally, similar to those being consulted on by the Scottish and UK governments.

In Scotland, Tomra already has RVMs in operation at Heriot-Watt University and Scotmid and Tesco stores.

It offers options including operational lease, capital lease or straight sale service.

“In Scandinavian countries it is what we call a regular return scheme where we sell our equipment to retailers and we have a combinations of automating some stores and some other stores are manual, and we buy the service contract and that is a regular pick up.

“People take back the bottles to where they bought them."

He added: “While another example is in the east coast of the US where they bring back the bottles to the stores, but we have paid for all the machines so it is a different financial set up, where we own the machines and we get part of the handling fee which is paid to the retailer.“It is different financial models.

“If the system is set up in a way that the retailer is buying the machines, of course they will have to invest into the machine and then they will get paid along the way, either a handling fee which would also be the set up in the UK, or in Germany, it is a different set up, the retailer will get the material value.

“If it is what we call equipment lease then we will take on the investment and it will be on our books.

“We have a set up in Australia where you get your deposit money to Paypal, and if you own many stores and many machines then you also get software control to oversee the machines.”

Mr Henriksen said: "If you just let valuable material go and not recycle it then it is actually a lot of money related to that as well.

"Having a system in place to recycle is good for the environment, good for the economy and good for people.

"It is done in different ways in different countries, no country is implementing a system like this in the same way.

"If you have a high enough deposit value, a high enough convenience, you make the total system attractive and build awareness, it is usually going to work really good and you get high collection and high recycling rates."