The Circle of Life – How To Recycle a Vending Machine.

In life there are few certainties aside from getting old and paying taxes, neither of which will ever be met with rapturous applause. But outside of our human sphere, the world around us is also ageing, and more often than not this leads to the end of the useful life of items in our built environment.

Vending machines are no exception. They work hard throughout their lifespan (typically between 7 and 12 years) and will have parts repaired and replaced throughout their time, ensuring they can continue to serve consumers. So what happens when a vending machine is ready to retire? Do they take a seat in the great warehouse in the sky, or do they live on across Planet Earth, reincarnated?

In this article we take you behind the scenes of the vending machine recycling process, with the help of recycling magicians DCS Ltd, and see just what life after death looks like for your favourite snack and drink vending machines.

Beginning the vending machine breakdown

The recycling process begins as soon as a consignment of retired vending machines arrives at the DCS treatment facility in Northamptonshire, where it is unloaded into a holding warehouse and prepared for an initial strip down.

When the time comes and the vending machine reaches the front of the queue, it’s brought into the stripping bay where a team of workers break down the machine into several different material categories, including wires and cabling, scrap metal and insulating foam. If the machine has a refrigerated element, any refrigerant gases will be safely collected before any components are broken down.

Metal panels are loaded onto a conveyor belt in the main dismantling space, where they are transported to a secure room for crushing down into metal scraps. This area is remotely monitored, removing the need for workers to be near dangerous equipment whilst metal is being processed.

Stripping precious metals

Snack vending machines and floor standing coffee machines contain various electronics and control systems, typically made of copper. As one of the most easily recyclable and reusable materials, it’s crucial to remove copper from wiring looms and have them sent for reprocessing.

Wiring is collected in the initial strip down and moved to an area where specialist machinery grinds down the rubber and copper, making it easier to separate the precious metal from the plastic insulation. Once separated, the ground copper is then packaged, weighed and shipped to a facility where it can be repurposed.

From foam to flooring

DCS are extremely proud of their foam recycling process, and for good reason. For many years, the insulation foam that helps refrigerators and vending machines maintain low temperatures to preserve food and drink, was considered a hazardous product that had few applications for re-use.

Now, the DCS team utilise cutting edge technology to break down insulated foam into a granular form, whilst removing harmful VOCs and making the material non-hazardous. This granulated foam mixture has a far more flexible set of re-use options, and can be manufactured into insulated bricks, oil spill kits and insulated screed flooring.

For every tonne of foam that is diverted from an energy-from-waste plant and reprocessed into new materials, prevents 1.5 MT of carbon dioxide being released into the environment.

The final recycling stages

With precious metals stripped out, environmentally harmful refrigerants removed and insulation foam processed safely into a granular form, the more challenging stages of vending machine recycling have been completed.

Other parts of the machine such as plastics and glass are collected and processed separately, being taken off-site to be turned into other products for sale. The metal scrap from the vending machine carcass is also sent off to a processing plant where this can be recycled into metal sheeting and utilised for other purposes.

This leaves very little that cannot be recycled or repurposed, and ensures that even when a vending machine reaches the end of its useful life, it brings life to new products, and does so in an environmentally conscious way.

If you’d like to learn more about how our vending machines are recycled once they’re no longer needed, or would like to learn about our range of machines, reach out to us on 01865 341011 or send us an enquiry.

We’d love to hear from you!