Abu Dhabi and Dubai alone generate close to 40,000 tonnes of solid waste daily, a rate which projects that most of the country’s landfills may reach their capacities within the next decade. With statistics as staggering as they are, recycling, reuse and energy recovery are receiving a lot of government attention, and averda, the largest waste management company in the region aims to highlight the value in waste through its unique reverse vending machines. As platinum sponsors of the inaugural edition of the Middle East Waste & Recycling exhibition which took place from 19 to 21 May in Dubai World Trade Centre, averda’s reverse vending machines were on display for trade visitors to use.
In 2013, averda reverse vending machines retrieved over 1.2 million recyclables across the region, and in the UAE alone, the machines collected 46,148 recyclables—89 percent of which were plastic bottles. In the first quarter of 2014, these machines in the UAE have already recorded over 17,000 containers.
“Waste management is on the top of the agenda for many private and public sector entities, and the popularity of the reverse vending machines in the UAE is indicative of the direction the country is heading in,” says Jeroen Vincent, Chief Operating Officer, GCC, averda.
Specialising in integrated waste management, averda has been leading waste innovation in the Middle East for nearly four decades, and has been present in the UAE since 2008.
averda launched standalone reverse vending machines in 2011 as part of its long-term plan to increase recycling rates. Primarily introduced as an interactive awareness-building tool, the reverse vending machine simplifies and incentivises recycling to encourage a change in consumer behaviour.
“We have a long-standing relationship with businesses in the UAE, and it is always interesting to note the power of influence the corporations have on encouraging positive behaviour in consumers. There’s a lot of potential for organisations to take on a leadership role here to establish value in waste. Additionally, reusable resources like aluminium and plastic are collected by our machines so that they can be returned to the manufacturing cycle.”
When an item is placed inside a reverse vending machine, it “reads” what material it is made of, and has an in-built safety mechanism, which only accepts empty containers that can be recycled. The bottles and cans amass inside the machine, and are segregated manually once collected.
“The reverse vending machine was developed with the view to educating and inspiring individuals and organisations to take responsibility for the correct disposal of their waste, while being rewarded in the process. Even a small incentive can have a huge impact on the decisions people make; why put your empty bottle in a trash can, when you can be rewarded for putting it in machine instead,” continues Vincent.
To this end, averda has partnered with Air Miles to provide users an added incentive to use the reverse vending machines to recycle. For every 1 unit deposited into the machines, users are awarded with two Air Miles.
Reverse vending machines are equipped with individual SIM cards, which communicate with a central system on the machine’s status and activity. When nearly full, a message is sent to averda, so the bottles and cans can be collected before reaching capacity. The system also assesses which machines receive more recyclables, allowing averda to determine areas with the highest footfall.
“Human behaviour suggests that people instinctively prefer the easiest option when making decisions on disposing of waste. If the reverse vending machines are made available in convenient locations, are aesthetically pleasing, and additionally rewards users for recycling, this encourages individuals to form a habit of recycling as they will grow to associate waste with rewards,” according to Vincent.
An on-screen ‘share’ tool allows users to update their social networks with information on what and how much they have recycled. The machine’s connectivity enables users to spread the word of how recycling can be rewarding—both literally and in the larger sense for the environment.
“Ultimately, reducing what UAE residents collectively send to landfill comes from helping them see the value in waste.”
averda showcased its services and solutions at the Middle East Waste & Recycling Exhibition which took place at the World Trade Centre in Dubai until 21 May 2014. averda’s solutions were on display at stand A121, with a team of technical and business experts on hand who demonstrated and explained the unique features of the averda reverse vending machines.
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