Veolia and Leon join forces to make recycling even more accessible

The recycling leader in the UK, Veolia has joined forces with the street food specialist restaurant chain Leon to encourage Londoners to make even more eco-friendly steps an integral part of their everyday life.
The essential
Implementing a deposit return scheme in the United Kingdom
Initiate a change in consumer behavior to make recycling a reflex, with purpose-built infrastructure
Veolia's response
A machine easily accessible to all, which directly rewards the user for each plastic bottle or aluminum can deposited
Published in the dossier of July 2019

Since March 15, 2019, consumers in London have been able to deposit and recycle their aluminum cans and plastic bottles thanks to a machine at their disposal in the famous King’s Cross neighborhood, near Granary Square.


Rebecca Di Mambro – Head of Marketing at Leon

Leon has formed a very strong partnership with Veolia. We have always been impressed by the work carried out by this sustainability and innovation pioneer in the United Kingdom. Leon has always prioritized an ethical approach in its restaurants, so it was only natural for it to choose Veolia to experiment with changing recycling behavior.

Our collaboration and the work we do together to attempt to solve the waste problem is extremely useful for us, because Veolia is a group with many experts in this field. This expertise aligns with the issues faced by Leon, which is a commercial brand in direct contact with the consumer.

The public is keen and determined to change their everyday habits and their general behavior. Yet recycling still doesn’t come automatically. This pilot scheme therefore gives us an opportunity to test what we can offer so that consumers are more inclined to recycle in future.

This interest on the part of the public is very encouraging, but we’ve also contacted many landlords and owners looking to install a machine on their site. In particular, this scheme could be extremely effective in shopping areas or airports.

An alliance to put an end to plastic pollution

This scheme is co-funded by Veolia, Leon and King’s Cross Estate within the framework of a six-month pilot phase. Their shared goal is to encourage a change in behavior among take-away drink aficionados in order to boost the plastic waste recycling rate in the UK, which is stagnating at 43% (in 2018). This rate has struggled to take off since the major rise recorded between 2000 and 2012. Today, only 7.5 billion of the 13 billion plastic bottles used by the British each year are recycled. The British government wants to dramatically improve this proportion over the coming decades.

“We're really excited about this partnership with Veolia,” states John Vincent, CEO and co-founder of Leon, “it’s a great step forward. As a major player in our sector, we have to push for the right facilities and infrastructure to ensure better recycling and optimal reuse. And we can’t wait to continue to welcome all the ‘recycling warriors’ into our restaurants and reward them for their efforts.”

Packaging management is on trend

In its top 10 packaging trends for 2019, the market research firm Innova Market Insights highlights the importance of sector-based partnerships between food manufacturers, packaging suppliers, and waste management companies. The firm stresses that this collaboration is essential in order to achieve the ambitious circular economy goals set by organizations and companies.

“We want King’s Cross to continue to be an exemplar of sustainable development and we see the way in which waste is managed as a key part of this,” states Steven Kellet, Sustainability Manager at King’s Cross Estate. “We are proud that we don’t send any waste to landfill, but we want to improve the amount of plastic waste that gets recycled from public areas and ultimately eliminate single-use plastics. This is why we are delighted to be involved in this new initiative in partnership with Veolia and Leon, which we hope will further increase the amount of waste that is recycled in the King's Cross district, to help it become an even greener place to work, live and play.”


The British government’s initiatives to encourage recycling

To increase the national recycling rate, the United Kingdom is planning to launch a national deposit return scheme for plastic and glass bottles and cans by 2023. According to the government, a measure of this kind could raise the country’s plastic recycling rate to 90%, while spurring companies to reuse plastic waste streams by giving them value.

Prior to these measures, in December 2018, the UK government revealed its long-term plan entitled “Resources and Waste Strategy for England.” This strategy sets out how to preserve material resources by minimizing waste, promoting resource efficiency, and moving toward a circular economy in England.

Plans are proposed for a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), which needs to focus on capturing the plastic bottles and cans that are currently being missed, known as “on-the go,” meaning medium and small bottles and cans that end up littering parks and beaches. Adding batteries and coffee cups will enrich the recovery of the dispersed materials.

A reverse vending machine with a difference

For each can or plastic bottle up to 750 ml deposited in the machine, the user receives a voucher for 10% off their next meal in the nearest Leon restaurant. However, the machine accepts waste from any source, whether Leon or other chains. The bottles and cans are then sent to Veolia’s Southwark site to be decontaminated and recycled.

The arrival of this new service also looks to meet a consumer expectation. The vast majority of consumers are looking for solutions to facilitate their role in recycling their waste: according to the results of a study revealed by Veolia in March 2018, 81% of respondents say that they would be prepared to go out of their way to deposit their packaging in this kind of automated kiosk.

Veolia naturally turned to Leon to familiarize consumers with these new waste recycling and recovery tools.

“Leon is a long-standing Veolia client and has always taken an extremely progressive approach,” explains Marcel Fortune, Regional Account Manager at Veolia in the United Kingdom. “The retail chain invests heavily in developing new ideas and allocates a major share of its budget to innovation. With restaurants around the country (54 all across England), Leon also enjoys high visibility. It was therefore an obvious step for us to choose this kind of group for this partnership.”

If the pilot scheme is conclusive, other automated kiosks will be rolled out in the King’s Cross district in due course, or near other Leon restaurants. In the long term, potentially more high-performance machines of the same kind could be set up throughout the country, especially in public buildings, shopping areas or universities.

* The fruit of a partnership between a real estate company owned by the British government and several pension funds, King’s Cross Estate is responsible for developing the King’s Cross district, where it is the single landowner of this former industrial area that has undergone extensive change since the nineties.