German man cashes in on bottle recycling
A 27-year-old man faced court in Bochum, Germany, on two fraud charges, after allegedly making €1.2m ($1.5m) through illegally manipulating machines used for a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans. He is accused of defrauding drinks manufacturers by disabling the shredding mechanism on two machines, allowing him to claim back deposits for the same bottles over and over again.
With each plastic bottle usually earning a 25-cent return, the accused man would have had to “recycle” his set of bottles 4.8m times.
His lawyer claimed his client was a “straw man” who had taken over a retail outfit as a favour to a relative, unaware of the manipulated machines having been put in place.
Under the deposit return scheme, which has been in place in Germany since 2003 and is due to be introduced in England this year, customers pay an additional deposit or Pfand as part of the price of a bottle or can, which they can reclaim when returning the drinks container to a vendor.
The return usually takes place via sophisticated “reverse vending machines” that scan in the bottles and hand out a voucher customers can cash in at the counter.
Reusable bottles are stored and sent back to the manufacturer, while nonreusable “one-way” bottles, usually made out of polyethylene terephthalate, are shredded inside the mechanism.