Special Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs) have been installed island-wide since October 2019, in a collaboration between the National Environment Agency (NEA) and food and beverage giant F&N Foods to encourage recycling in Singapore.
These vending machines are located at selected FairPrice outlets for members of the public to drop off used and empty aluminium drink cans and plastic bottles easily.
For every four receptacles deposited, users will receive a S$0.20 FairPrice discount voucher.
Public response to the initiative has been overwhelming, so much so that it prompted changes to the incentive system and relocation of these machines.
Reverse vending machines overworked
The initiative has drawn many Singaporeans bringing bags of plastic cans and bottles to the RVMs since its inception.
It seemed like some of the machines were worn-out as a result of overuse.
One of the machines that had apparently malfunctioned was at the FairPrice outlet in AMK Hub, according to a Facebook post on Jan. 6, 2020.
The Facebook user, one Winnie Kyrie Tan, also questioned whether the recycling initiative has served its purpose of encouraging individuals to recycle or has the incentive system been "abused".
In response to a media query, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said that the machine at AMK Hub had experienced power trips due to heavy loading from the public.
The machine was subsequently removed on Jan. 7 and will be relocated, the agency added.
In a separate post on Dec. 6, 2019, Singaporean freegan dumpster diver Daniel Tay also understood from a user at NEX shopping mall that the machine could be full within an hour's time.
He also observed people in the queue bringing a large amount of plastic bottles in a black trash bag and in a supermarket trolley.
That resulted in a queue.
Online commenters have noted that other machines in Yishun, Jurong and Paya Lebar were also often out of service.
And it apparently takes about two hours for the machine to be emptied each time as Tay dropped by the machine at Paya Lebar more recently to observe the situation.
Even with regular intervals of clearing the machines out, they clearly were unable to cope with the load and reached capacity quickly.
Adjusting incentive to S$0.20 for every 20 containers
In response to users' behaviour, the Recycle N Save Facebook page informed members of the public on Jan. 8 about a change in the incentive system.
It wrote that after evaluating the public's attitude to recycling, F&N Foods and NEA will be adjusting the incentive to S$0.20 per 20 containers starting from Jan. 10, 2020.
They thanked the public for the "overwhelming response" since the launch.
Within two months, some 1.2 million plastic bottles and cans have been deposited into the machines in total.
To reduce congestion and improve the users' experience, the machines will also be relocated to reach out to more users.
Updated list of RVM locations
The new locations are as follows:
- Environment Building, at lobby area, West Wing, recycling corner
- Hong Kah Community Club, along walkway next to the indoor basketball court, facing block 377
- Nee Soon South Community Club, outside theatre
- NorthPoint City, Level 2 (South Wing), behind Gelare (facing BAGUS)
- Our Tampines Hub, At basement 1, behind children’s indoor playground
Top photo collage from Winnie Kyrie Tan/Facebook
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