NatWest trials reverse vending machine that lets consumers recycle unwanted payment cards

Woman using NatWest reverse vending machine that lets consumers recycle unwanted payment cards
REVERSE VENDING: Each card is shredded and then securely stored before removal to a recycling plant

UK bank NatWest is trialling a ‘reverse vending machine’ that enables consumers to securely recycle unwanted plastic payment, gift and loyalty cards as well as card readers and plastic bottles at locations across London.

NatWest is piloting the machine after conducting research that revealed more than six in ten UK consumers (62%) have a total of 65m unused, unwanted or expired cards “lying around at home” and that “a lack of recycling options […] has created over 380 tonnes of plastic card waste since 2017, equivalent to 211 stampeding elephants”.

The research also found that 68% of consumers cite personal security as “a main concern when binning their old payment cards” and that confusion over how to dispose of plastic cards has led to “the contamination of an estimated 10.2m batches of recycling, due to well-intentioned consumers throwing their cards into recycling bins”.

“The practice of cutting them up and scattering the pieces across various bins to avoid fraud, only exacerbates the problem, contaminating several batches of recycling at one time,” NatWest explains.

How it works

To address security concerns, the reverse vending machine ensures that “each card is shredded to wipe consumers’ details from the item, before the pieces are securely stored, only accessible by a designated driver,” the bank says.

“After pickup, the waste makes its way to a recycling plant via an electric vehicle to become something new.

“The first batches from the pilot phase of NatWest’s reverse vending machine rollout are being repurposed into hats and socks for London’s homeless population.

“Using integrated blockchain technology which links to a purpose-built dashboard, it is possible to track what the plastic from each machine has been made into and the carbon and energy saved as a result.”

NatWest is initially piloting the machines at locations in Victoria Place and Canary Wharf shopping centres and Guys and St Thomas’ hospitals in London.

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