recycling cans without the Beer Store guys

Feuchtwangen, Germany:  the following few pictures take us through the process for returning cans and bottles in a little town in Germany. No lining up with street-savy bottle collectors, this return-o-mat is in the lobby of a large grocery store.

The gent we are stalking here has an entire shopping cart of empty Red Bull containers. He puts each one, one at a time, into the machine slot, the cans align front to back with ridges on the platform. As he withdraws his hand, a light comes on, and the cans rotate on their axis  a full 360 degrees.

The conveyor belt under the ridges then takes the object deeper into the machine where a series of swinging gates direct it to the right, centre, or left, so at least 3 bins of sorting is going on.

bottle return 2


There is another square opening with a conveyor belt down below. I saw people with a carton of empties put the whole box on the conveyor, it lights up from the side and above, then promptly is digested somewhere in the room beyond the machine.

The machine keeps a running tally in the window of your refund, and later prints a credit note one takes to a store cashier. As you can see from this guy we are shoulder-surfing, it can really add up:

bottle return4


It makes sense to me to have a machine do the initial sorting and binning of the returned materials, and to administer the refund. The whole approach here struck me as rather more dignified and sanitary than the line-up I currently experience at the Somerset Beer Store [hint to the unwary: never go on blue box day in your neighbourhood….]. Plus the store hours are long, and it somehow seems logical to retur

4 thoughts on “recycling cans without the Beer Store guys

  1. I watched one of these do its thing in Germany. It was completely self-contained. The bottle goes in on a V-shaped pair of belts, then gets spun so the laser scanner can find and read the bar code. Without that code (i.e. without the label) no refund. This identifies refundable vs. nonrefundable (even in Germany, sigh) bottles and also the type of plastic. Then the machine crushes the bottle to compactly store it. I’d guess cans get the same treatment but go into another bin. The machine I used didn’t have the ability to unpack a carton of empties though.

  2. The Richelieu food store in the village of Perkins, PQ, about 40 kms up the Gatineau has had one of these for about 5 years now. You know how pop cans here say “worth cents in Quebec” or something like that? Quebec has been paying for returns forever and now these machines are pretty ubiquitous.Of course, since it also sells beer, they take bottles at the counter too.

  3. Costco in Gatineau has a machine like this too. I call it la machine qui mange les canettes.

  4. IGA in Grenville as well. Seems to be a Quebec thing. There must be a puritanical Ontario law that prohibits this kind of behaviour forcing you to the centralized institutions.

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