Every year, more than 1.4 trillion beverage containers are sold, and 500 billion are plastic. Of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced every year, 40% is simply sent to landfill, and 32% leaks into nature as litter. 2020’s International Coastal Cleanup found plastic beverage bottles and caps in the top 3 and 4 litter types collected. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Most plastic bottles are made of PET and HDPE, which is highly recyclable. Plastic should not be treated as disposable, but as a valuable resource – and one that should never end up in the oceans.

Turning Off the Tap

eXXpedition’s community is all too aware of plastic’s impact in the environment. At least 8 million tons end up in the ocean each year, where there is an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic. Plastic is devastating marine life, and is working its way up the food chain to humans.

Roughly 80% of that ocean plastic comes from land. Cleanups tackle the litter already in waterways, but the world must find ways to “turn off the tap” on land, to stop plastics getting into the oceans in the first place. There is no silver bullet to solving plastic pollution but there are hundreds of solutions.

Getting in the Loop

One of the solutions on land that seeks to turn off the tap of plastic drink bottles entering our waterways and ocean are deposit return systems (DRS). This is legislation that sees a small deposit added to the price of a beverage, and refunded when the consumer returns the container (whether plastic, glass or cans) for recycling. Plastic bottles are seen as a symbol of a throw-away culture; giving them a financial value signals they also have a value for society as a resource.

When a bottle is returned in a deposit system, it is kept separate from other waste and avoids contamination that might make it more complex and costly to recycle. These containers can be turned into another plastic bottle again and again in a “closed loop”, rather than downcycled or disposed of. This drives a circular economy and reduces the need to extract virgin oil to produce new bottles.

How TOMRA Seeks to Combat Ocean Plastic 

At eXXpedition we are thrilled to have been partnered with TOMRA since 2018 – they even joined us on board to study the ocean plastic problem first hand. TOMRA are working directly on solutions to ocean plastic through their reverse vending technology for recycling drink containers and are the global leader in reverse vending machines – you return your plastic item and receive your deposit back. TOMRA captures 40+ billion drink containers each year through its 80,000 reverse vending machines installed across the world making the dream of deposit return systems a reality. The world’s highest-performing deposit return systems see up to 98% of drink containers returned for recycling. This is a solution that works. Learn more about how TOMRA is keeping containers in the loop and out of our ocean here.

Building a Circular Economy 

eXXpedition co-founder Emily Penn talked to Mithu Mohren SVP, Marketing & Communications, Circular Economy at TOMRA about the company’s holistic resource system, where it’s being used around the world and what impact it’s having toward scaling up a circular economy.

Click the image below to watch the LinkedIn live session, or read our blog ‘How Do We Implement a Circular Economy?’ to find out more.


TOMRA was founded on an innovation in 1972 that began with the design, manufacturing and sale of reverse vending machines (RVMs) for automated collection of used beverage containers. Today TOMRA provides technology-led solutions that enable the circular economy with advanced collection and sorting systems that optimize resource recovery and minimize waste in the food, recycling and mining industries. Learn more at tomra.com.