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Watsons Water plans to introduce 400 water bottle reverse vending machines. Photo: Winson Wong

Drinks maker Watsons Water offers cash coupons in effort to get Hong Kong public to recycle plastic bottles at reverse vending machines

  • Watsons Water says machines can collect up to 1,000 bottles of all brands
  • Users will be rewarded with cash coupons for up to HK$50

Hongkongers will soon be given greater financial incentives to recycle single-use plastic bottles, according to one of Hong Kong’s biggest drinks manufacturers, which also plans to provide more water dispensers.

To educate the public about reducing plastic waste, Watsons Water announced on Wednesday it would introduce 400 water bottle reverse vending machines. The machines can collect up to 1,000 bottles of all brands with volumes ranging from 230 millilitres to 1.8 litres.

“We are not trying to make this a business project. Everyone has a responsibility to recycle, which is why we are not singling out brands. All are welcome, however, we are starting with water bottles only,” A.S. Watson managing director Michelle Chan Wen-mee said, revealing the company hoped to expand the initiative to other beverages.

Michelle Chan and Edmond Yu reveal Watsons Waters’ plans. Photo: Winson Wong

After putting bottles in the machine, users would be offered coupons or gift redemptions.

“All they have to do is download the ‘Drops of Fun’ mobile application,” said Edmond Yu Tak-chiu, Watsons Water marketing general manager.

“Sign up, scan the membership code at the machine, then scan the bar code on the water bottle and dispose of it inside.

“For each Watsons water bottle, they will get five points and for as little as 25 points, they can receive a HK$50 online cash coupon for places like ParknShop, which is one of our partners for the project.”

The Hongkongers taking recycling into their own hands

While non-members could also use the machines, they would not be able to collect points.

Yu said a lack of incentives had been a reason for the low recycling rate for single-use drink bottles.

“Not a lot of people recycle because they think, ‘What’s in it for me?’ or sometimes they would rather casually throw a bottle into the nearest garbage bin rather than waiting until they pass the next recycling bin,” he said.

“Convenience is key, followed by incentives. That is why we have rolled out the redemption system to offer rewards – something traditional recycling bins cannot offer.”

Meanwhile, the company also plans to introduce 100 refilling machines which will sell 100 millilitres of water for HK$1 during a six-month pilot period to encourage consumers to bring their own bottles.

Under its Go Green project, the water distributor has set a target for the recovery rate of single-use water bottles it produces to 50 per cent in the next five years and 100 per cent by 2029.

In 2016, the daily quantity of municipal solid waste disposal was 10,345 tonnes, up 1.8 per cent from 2015, according to the Environmental Protection Department.

Plastics were the third-largest category, following food waste and paper, with a daily disposal quantity of 2,132 tonnes, or 20.6 per cent of the total.

To rid Hong Kong of plastic waste, appeal to self-interest

At least 50 schools, social enterprises, management companies and retailers have agreed to join the project.

Two of the machines will debut along the route of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon next month and more than 10 dispensers will be installed at different Fortress, ParknShop and Watsons retail stores across districts including Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Tai Po, Central and Whampoa as early as March.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Get points for plastic