The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia generates more than 15 million tonnes of solid waste per year, 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.
In 2013, averda’s reverse vending machines retrieved over 1.2 million recyclable across the region, and in Saudi alone the machines collected close to 350,000 recyclables-87% of which were plastic bottles, which, if not recycled would each take 700 years to begin composting. In the first quarter of 2014, these reverse vending machines in Saudi have already surpassed more than half of last year’s figures, recording close to 220,000 containers in four months.
“More than 75% of Saudi’s 29 million residents are concentrated in urban areas, which generate over 6 million tonnes of solid waste per year. Waste management is a critical issue in the region, and the popularity of the reverse vending machines in Saudi is indicative of the direction Saudi Arabia is heading in,” according to Camille Korban, Managing Director, averda Saudi Arabia.
Specialising in integrated waste management, averda has been leading waste innovation in the Middle East for nearly four decades, and has been present in Saudi Arabia since 2009. 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 recycling to encourage a change in consumer behaviour.
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 disposing of their waste. 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 contribute to saving the environment by putting it in machine instead,” continued Korban.
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, encouraging others to also help in efforts to limit their environmental impact through recycling.
“averda is continually looking for ways to strengthen the communities in which we live and work,” added Korban. “Working with leading players across industries, we strive to ensure our key corporate objectives include and endorse a sustainable future. Through our reverse vending machines, we can ensure that reusable resources like aluminium and plastic are returned to the manufacturing cycle,” concluded Korban.
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.
“Presenting a conveniently located and aesthetically-pleasing means to recycle encourages individuals to form a habit of recycling,” Korban said. “What we do today will ultimately influence the future of our children, and raising environmental awareness is the first step to creating a cleaner, healthier future for Saudi Arabia,” Korban added.