Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is the first hospital in the UK to host a ‘reverse vending machine’, as NHS Grampian undertakes a trial of the technology in advance of a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) launching across Scotland.

Under the scheme, all buildings which include retail catering outlets must either house a reverse vending machine or be part of a local network for the collection of plastic and glass bottles, and drinks cans.

The reverse vending machine has been supplied by TOMRA, one of the world’s leading producers whose Scottish team is busy preparing for the wider programme to go live.

During the trial, anyone can come to the machine, situated next to the ATMs and WH Smith at the main hospital entrance, and deposit bottles and cans. In return, they will receive a voucher worth 5p per item, up to the value of £2.50, to be spent in the Aroma Cairngorm café.

Neil Duncan, Waste Management Officer for NHS Grampian, said: “I am delighted ARI is hosting this trial and it’s my hope it will reduce litter on site and promote recycling. NHS Grampian is committed to being a sustainable organisation as part of the Plan for the Future; this trial is us putting our words into action.

“Under the terms of the DRS, we will have to plan to either install machines or join a local network at Woodend, Dr Gray’s Hospital, and Royal Cornhill Hospital. This trial will help us decide on the best course of action. We will also be sharing our experience with colleagues at other health boards across Scotland.”

When the DRS comes into effect the refund will be 20p per item and people will be able to choose between a voucher or a cash alternative. During the trial there will be no cash alternative and the return will be 5p per item. Vouchers, up to a maximum of £2.50 per person, per day, will be issued for use in Aroma Cairngorm café. Vouchers must be spent within two weeks of the deposit.

Neil added: “Anyone can use this machine to deposit their bottles and cans; they do not have to be a staff member, patient, or visitor, though we expect most deposits will be made by them.

“Any empty bottle or can may be deposited in the machine except for plastic milk bottles. They are a different type of plastic and must not be placed in the machine. Bottles or cans should not be crushed or crumpled; the machine will compact them after deposit.

Derick Murray, non-executive board member, added: “As the board’s Sustainability Champion, I am really pleased to see ARI leading the way with this trial. We want to support change in the community, as well as within our own organisation, and this is a great example of that. I’m looking forward to seeing how this pilot develops.”

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John Lee, TOMRA’s Vice-President for Public Affairs in the UK and Ireland, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this highly innovative project. NHS Grampian is to be congratulated for taking the lead on this, giving hospital staff, patients and visitors the opportunity to reduce litter and boost recycling.

“NHS hospitals could play a key role in the success of deposit return once the scheme goes live. This project is paving the way for that success, showing how easy it is for everyone to play their part in it.”