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Rollover Deposits

Soda machines that include recycling so deposits can be rolled over to the next purchase.

Photo of Cary Howe
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The end goal until there’s a replacement for petroleum based plastics has to be increasing recycling rates. Our current system it’s difficult to redeem deposits on cans and bottles. There needs to be a way to redeem cans and bottles at the point of sale including vending machines. One approach is a rollover deposit. An example would be the office vending machine the first time you buy a soda you pay the deposit. The next time you buy a soda simply insert the empty bottle or can into the vending machine. A reader scans the container then deducts the deposit from your next purchase. Plastic bottles are shredded and cans are crushed reducing the volume of material. If you buy four sodas in a day you’d only pay the one deposit and if you have a bottle from the previous day you’d pay no deposit if you return the empty. We need an instant gratification element to recycling to increase rates of recycling. An office vending machine is far removed from a place to recycle it so often they are discarded. Most offices have recycling bins but using them costs the consumer the deposit so some still throw the item in the trash. Also many places with vending machines like laundromats don’t have recycling bins. Adding in a redeeming system to vending machines could greatly reduce waste.

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

The more bottles get recycled the more caps get redeemed since most leave the cap on the bottles.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

There are only two ways to solve the plastic trash problem. Increase rates of recycling. Second, the only long term solution is biodegradable materials. Until those are widely adopted recycling is our only hope.

Tell us about yourself

I'm a sculptor and designer by trade. I worked as an art director for Disney and worked on a wide range of films from The Abyss to Lord of the Rings. I've studied sustainable housing, energy and food production since the 1970s. Film taught me to think outside of the box.

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Photo of Gina Cardazone

I like this idea a lot! I think it would be really attractive for the consumer. I'm not sure how to incentivize for the soda sellers or vending machine makers but perhaps a particularly environmentally conscious company would start the trend.

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Cary Howe for sharing these insights on incentivizing recycling behavior. What would be the next steps to help you continue building upon this research?

Excited to see these recycling insights expanded upon in the ideas phase, which launches in 5 days!

Photo of Paul Sharp

This is a great idea that encourages brand loyalty, which producers would see as beneficial.
It could also be a part of a larger refillable bottling network, increasing recovery rates by enabling more recovery points. A cash or credit option may also be useful because some people may not want to immediately purchase a new beverage once they've finished the first one and it would support pickers who collect discarded containers.

Photo of Evelyn Ritter

I really like this! Where I live there is a high bottle deposit, and yet sometimes people are still to lazy to return the bottle or find recycling for it. If they knew they could get the instant gratification for their good behavior, I wonder if that would help recycling rates even more.