The initiative seeks to raise awareness of container deposit schemes and reverse vending both on campus and across Portugal, which has adopted a law to introduce a national deposit return system in 2022. Many European Union member states are also exploring deposit return systems to meet by 2029 the 90% collection target for single-use plastic beverage containers.
The deposit return system encourages all on campus to "get in the loop" by recycling their drink containers. It aims to reduce litter and landfill, reuse materials in a closed loop, and reduce reliance on raw materials to produce new containers. It also contributes to Nova SBE's sustainability initiatives as an environmentally-conscious campus, and brings an opportunity to teach students the value of waste and importance of a circular economy.
Students, faculty and staff simply pay a €0.15 deposit when they purchase an eligible drink container at participating campus stores and restaurants, including the campus store Pingo Doce, one of the largest supermarket chains in Portugal. They get their deposit refunded back to them when they return their empty container for recycling to the two TOMRA reverse vending machines located in the campus food court. Eligible containers include glass and plastic bottles, as well as cans.
To make returning containers more convenient, deposit return systems often use reverse vending machines as an automated way to collect/sort containers and give consumers back their deposits. TOMRA has over 84,000 reverse vending installations across more than 60 markets, and receives over 40 billion containers for recycling annually.
The deposit return scheme also experiments with being the world's first paperless system in line with Nova SBE's policies to keep campus communication paperless. At the reverse vending machines, recyclers can choose between two ways to have their deposit refund paid out:
- Receive it electronically via the myTOMRA app, which users connect to their personal PayPal account
- Donate it digitally, to the Community Center for the Parish of Carcavelos.
"There will be more and more of these machines. This is fundamental because by 2022, 75% of plastic and aluminum beverage containers must be collected in Portugal," said João Pedro Matos Fernandes, Portuguese Minister for the Environment and Energy Transition. "We need to educate people and make the transition to a better governance for plastic packaging. We need to see plastic packaging as resource, not as a residue."
"This project conforms to one of our many sustainability goals, being a living lab of future solutions, such as the deposit refund system in Portugal to be implemented in 2022. This also portrays Nova SBE's responsibility and position in supporting the transformation of today's society into a more sustainable one through knowledge, innovation, and solutions that contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals," underlined Luís Veiga Martins, Nova SBE's Associate Dean for Community Engagement & Sustainable Impact.
"TOMRA is excited to be part of this project and the development of deposit return in Portugal," added Rene Hissink, TOMRA Senior Vice-President for Western & Southern Europe. "The initiative with Nova SBE is a landmark installation that can truly showcase for both the local community and the entire country how deposit return systems work and the impact these systems can have on plastic collection rates, recycling and resource usage, and the natural environment."
Two TOMRA reverse vending machines are also set up in the civic buildings of Cascais Ambiente, the municipality that covers Nova SBE, giving local government workers an opportunity to try out deposit return systems.