What is a Reverse Vending Machines? (Explained)

Reverse vending machines (RVMs) are machines that accept used and empty bottles and cans in exchange for payment or other incentives, depending on how many containers are recycled.

The Swedish business Wicanders created this device in the 1950s. It accepted just plastic bottles, one at a time, and although it was operational, it was extremely basic and one-dimensional.

Other recycled materials like aluminum or glass, as well as vast numbers of bottles, could not be accepted by the machine. In order to improve this machine, engineer Aage Tveitan developed a sophisticated reverse vending machine in 1962.

The machine could then accept several bottles at once and bottles made of various recyclable materials. This improvement created the framework for how our machines operate today.

How does a reverse vending machine work?

Reverse vending machines make it simple to recycle your empty containers. Using a reverse vending machine to recycle only requires a few simple steps:

  • The front chute of the reverse vending machine is where you should place your empty containers.
  • Press the button on the machine’s front after you’re done.
  • Take a look at the printed receipt from the machine. (The value of your recycling refund is displayed on the receipt in areas where deposit return schemes are legal, and it may typically be cashed at the return location’s cash register.) 

When you place your containers in the reverse vending machine, it will scan the barcodes, materials, or forms of the containers to determine the type of packing and issue the appropriate deposit refund. The containers will subsequently be sorted by kind by the machine.

Refillable containers are relocated to one area of storage in the machine, while non-refillable containers are compressed (crushed) and kept in other bins, according to the containers that are permitted in your area.

The beverage containers are then manually collected and sorted after the storage space is filled to make sure they are delivered back to the appropriate recycling material company.

Benefits Of Reverse Vending Machines

There are several benefits to using reverse vending machines. By recycling materials and reducing the need for raw materials to produce new drinking containers, they help the environment.

Additionally, users may quickly utilize RVMs because they are conveniently placed in public locations including supermarkets, petrol stations, schools, and parks.

They are easy to manage because the recyclables (plastics, glass, or aluminum) are sorted automatically by the machine rather than by hand.

Additionally, RVMs can accommodate about 900 cans and plastic beverage containers, showing that they can store a lot of stuff before having to be thrown out.

Even though they can handle a lot of recyclable materials, they are not large machines and so do not occupy much room. Businesses may benefit from RVMs as well.

If businesses using RVMs provide store-specific incentives, clients who appreciate recycling from the RVM will come back to recycle and purchase more frequently (such as coupons). 

Lastly, because RVMs are motivational tools, both the environment and the recycler gain from their use.

The same possibility for profit exists with RVMs as with ATMs. An RVM can make $100 each week, or $5,200 annually, if it can gather 1,000 cans at a cost of 10 cents each. In two to five years, these devices would recover their initial cost.

Reverse Vending Machines Around the World

Due to increased innovation and the growth of resource recycling programs, the reverse vending machine industry is growing rapidly on a global scale.

Africa, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and South America are the regions where reverse vending machines are available. The reverse vending machine industry is expected to reach $386.9 million in global sales by 2020.

With a compound yearly growth rate of 10.4%, the market is anticipated to reach $779.3 million by 2026.

RVMs are reportedly dominating the North American market, according to Transparency, a market analysis service, because of a consistent need for RVMs in the retail, beverage, and government sectors.

Due to the developing food sector, they are anticipated to grow significantly in the Asian Pacific market.

There may possibly be new uses for this idea given the growth of RVMs globally. The RVM may, for instance, be modified to gather new materials like compost and textiles or to include new incentives.

These modifications enable RVMs to recycle and minimize waste other than water bottles while encouraging users to recycle more.

Using the RVM is a step in the right way for the environment as well as reducing the impact on humans, even though it may not significantly revolutionize the recycling process.

With the introduction of RVMs into more nations, retail outlets, and public spaces, it is hoped that recyclable materials will indeed be recycled more heavily, and perpetually reused, and RVMs will significantly reduce waste.


Customers use roughly 1.4 trillion beverage containers annually around the world, and the reverse vending machine’s goal is to help reduce and recycle this waste.

Most of our used beverage bottles wind up in landfills, waterways, seas, and other natural areas. The RVM offers incentives for recycling in order to address this waste.

These incentives could include cash back, charitable contributions, metro tickets, pre-paid phone cards, or inexpensive theme park tickets, depending on where the machine is located.

People are probably more likely to recycle as a result of these incentives because it’s good for the environment and for them personally.

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Anjali Singh
Anjali Singh

Meet Anjali, a seasoned content writer with a passion for education, innovation and all things outdoorsy. With five years of content writing experience in diverse product-based companies.