A fleet of 320 reverse vending machines will go live on November 14, allowing consumers to deposit their empty drink containers in exchange for a 10c refund.

A consortium made up of some of Malta’s largest beverage distributors, BCRS, is running the scheme to ensure that the recyclable material is processed and recycled.

CEO Edward Chetcuti told Times of Malta that the country ends up with some 230 million drink containers every year, only around 20 per cent of which are recycled.

The beverage refund container scheme aims to have 90 per cent of all the material that it collects recycled.

Stressing that the company is non-profit, Chetcuti said that widespread participation could go a long way in helping Malta achieve its waste reduction goals and grow the circular economy.

“We want to give people the confidence to know that this material is going to be recycled and it is going to improve our performance,” he said.

“This is going to have a big impact on the environment, so we really want to be able to get everyone on board to make a difference.”

The rules regulating the bottle refund scheme were introduced in 2020, partially to fulfil the implementation of an EU directive on plastic packaging.

The aim is to assist distributors to collect packaging while helping the country reach its desired recycling goals.

Importers and distributors are charged an administrative fee and now have to register every single drink product they put on the market.

They are also charged an additional 10c for every container, which distributors charge to retailers, who, in turn, charge it to consumers.

How does it work?

The reverse vending machines will accept any beverage container registered with the BCRS. From the barcode information, the machine knows the shape, weight and kind of material the container is made of and will distribute it accordingly.

If the wrong container is thrown into the machine, it will not be processed and the screen will show an error message.

The machine issues a receipt, which can be redeemed at a retailer which sells beverages or it can be donated to charity.

The machines are emptied every day and taken to the processing facility in Ħal Far, where they are sorted and treated, then pressed into cubes ready to be recycled.

Recycling plastic bottles.Recycling plastic bottles.

Which containers?

Currently, the BCRS system accepts glass, plastic and tin can containers. These could have contained water, soft drinks, energy drinks, beers and ciders, dilutables, flavoured drinks and ready-to-drink coffee.

The containers don’t have to be washed but they do have to be empty and intact. The machine will not accept squashed plastic bottles.

The barcode must also remain intact on the product for the machine to register it.

Ideally, the containers should be recycled with the cap still attached to them to help them retain their shape.

The machine will not accept certain types of glass bottles, specifically for wines and spirits and preserve jars, nor cartons or pouches for juice and dairy drinks.

The container’s barcode can be inputted here to find out whether the machine will take it.

Where are the machines?

There are 320 reverse vending machines all over the islands, including at every supermarket in Malta and Gozo.

Refunds issued from the supermarket machines can only be redeemed at that specific supermarket or its other outlets. Receipts issued from public machines can be redeemed at any outlet.

There’s a map of the machine locations.

Can’t I just use grey bags?

Yes. There is no obligation to take part in this scheme but that’s a loss of 10c per bottle.

Charitable organisations also stand to benefit from recycled bottles, with the first batch of donated refunds set to go to l-Istrina at the end of the year.

Hotels and restaurants in the country have their own direct service agreement with BCRS to collect containers.

Packed for recycling.Packed for recycling.

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