University of South Florida


Reverse recycling debuts at USF

Reverse vending machines funded in partnership with Coca-Cola Beverages Florida LLC (Coke Florida) and The Coca-Cola Company, not only promote recycling, but give back to the community.

By Torie Doll, University Communications and Marketing

As students return from winter break, they’ll notice six new machines on USF’s campuses. They may resemble vending machines, but instead of taking money and dispensing drinks, they recycle plastic bottles and aluminum cans to benefit the USF community of students in need.

The reverse vending machines (RVM) are funded by The Coca-Cola Company and its Tampa-based bottling partner, Coke Florida, as part of the company’s “World Without Waste” environmental program, which includes an ambitious goal of collecting and recycling the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells by 2030.

“As the local bottler, Coke Florida in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company is committed to sustainability and reducing our environmental footprint with our customers and consumers, through efforts that both promote and increase recycling,” said Erin Black, vice president of sustainability, risk management and facilities for Coke Florida. 

To assist in these efforts, Coke Florida and The Coca-Cola Company have agreed to donate five cents per aluminum can or plastic bottle collected at USF to the Feed-A-Bull Food Pantry, up to $5,000 per year. Through a survey created by Student Government, students selected Feed-A Bull Food Pantry as their philanthropy of choice as it provides emergency food assistance and resources to students in need.

“I think this will provide a positive impact to combat food insecurity for our USF community,” Student Body Vice President Jillian Wilson said.

Even though the machines are supported by Coke Florida and The Coca-Cola Company, machines will accept empty aluminum cans and plastic bottles from any brand. They’re not required to be cleaned, but the RVM will spit out anything that doesn’t meet recycling criteria, such as a glass bottle. The materials are crushed and sorted by type, collected by Coca-Cola’s partner, ATLAS RVM Systems, then treated so it can be used in another bottle or can. This creates a closed loop for recycling where packaging materials can be used again and again.

"Together we are building a sustainable, entrepreneurial solution for collecting bottles and cans,” said Ralph Martucci, president and CEO of ATLAS RVM Systems.

Masked student inserts a plastic bottle into a USF-branded reverse vending machine.

[Photo Courtesy: Cliff McBride, UCM]

Each machine can hold approximately 900 crushed containers before needing to be emptied. The performance of each RVM will be monitored monthly to make sure that collectively, they’re on track to reach the maximum donation amount for the pantry.

“We are very excited to launch the RVM project this spring semester and we hope students embrace this program and help support this great cause,” USF Auxiliary Services Director Nancy Santiago said.

For future semesters, the addition of card readers is being considered to run student competitions and further incentivize recycling on campus.

Strategically placed in high-demand or high-traffic areas, four machines were installed on the Tampa campus and two on the USF St. Petersburg campus. The Sarasota-Manatee campus will be considered for future expansion. The locations of the RVMs are:

  • Cooper Hall – outside in the vending alcove
  • The Hub – outside the main entrance
  •  Juniper Hall – first floor
  • Marshall Student Center – first floor by Panera
  • University Student Center, St. Petersburg campus – lobby

  • Bayboro/Davis Breezeway, St. Petersburg campus

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