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    High levels of engagement for digital deposit return scheme trial

    Photo: gov.wales

    The trial of a digital deposit return scheme (DDRS) in mid-Wales has resulted in high levels of engagement with 18,794 rewards being claimed, more than four for every household, recently published results show.

    The Brecon Scan|Recycle|Reward trial, a world-first initiative, was led by DDRS Alliance with support from Welsh government, Powys county council, WRAP’s Collaborative Change Programme and local retailers.

    The trial worked differently from a traditional deposit return scheme as it trialled technology that digitally scans the drinks containers, meaning deposits can even be reclaimed from the comfort of people’s homes. It was also reward-based, with residents claiming a 10p reward when returning eligible containers. Usually, people are charged a deposit on drinks container which then must be taken back to a retailer or to a reverse vending machine to reclaim the deposit.

    Those involved with the trial in Brecon say the high level of cooperation with the scheme shows that people in Wales are open to using a digital deposit return scheme in the future.

    The positive results from the trial included:

    • 58% of all returned containers came through the household weekly recycling collections
    • the trial showed a range of return options was preferred over any particular route
    • 97.6% of all containers returned at home were captured in the recycling stream
    • there was no significant fraud or misuse of the system
    • despite being an early trial, 56% of participants surveyed said they would recommend the scheme in the future

    “I’d like to thank the people of Brecon for taking part in the Digital Deposit Return Scheme trial – their willingness to get involved will help develop our plans for the DRS across Wales,” Huw Irranca-Davies, cabinet secretary for climate change, said.

    “This trial will support our ongoing work into DDRS and help build on our already world class recycling rates. Our aim is to move to a more circular economy where resources are reused and recycled rather than being wasted.”

    The trial enabled eligible containers to be returned, with participants claiming a 10p reward for each one, through four different return methods tailored to accommodate non-smartphone users as well as those happy to use the technology:

    • Kerbside: Utilised existing weekly kerbside recycling service, crediting rewards to an online account (smartphone required).
    • Automated Return Point (ARP): Similar to traditional Reverse Vending Machines (but much simpler), rewards were credited to either online accounts or printed cash vouchers (smartphone optional).
    • Community Bins: Outdoor, on-the-go option crediting rewards to an online account (smartphone required).
    • Over the Counter Return (OTC): Rewards redeemed in-store as cash (smartphone not required).

    Over the course of the Scan|Recycle|Reward trial, 18,794 rewards were claimed. Results indicated kerbside return as the most popular and convenient method (chosen for 58% of returns), with 97.6% capture compliance observed.

    The analysis showcased high material quality across return routes, with PET plastic bottles comprising 63% of returns, followed by cans (29%), cartons (7%), and glass (less than 1%).

    “The residents, visitors and retailers of Brecon thoroughly embraced their involvement in this innovative trial, and it was encouraging to witness everyone’s enthusiasm and willingness to give the digital technology a go,” Matt Perry, Powys county council’s chief officer, said.

    “The results show for themselves how a digital version of the traditional return deposit schemes could easily be incorporated into the already established weekly kerbside collections services offered by most local authorities making life easier for citizens to return containers whilst also keeping our carbon footprint to a minimum.”

    The trial involved 24 retailers and over 50 suppliers and partners.

    “Despite its complexity, it worked flawlessly and has delivered some great insight and, more importantly, showed that the British public values a solution for increasing recycling and reducing litter that fits in with their varied and busy lives,” Duncan Midwood, co-founder and director of DDRS Alliance, said.  

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