Current proposals for recycling plastic bottles is to have local “reverse vending” machines. To have sufficient numbers, convenient enough that the public would use them would be prohibitively expensive.
A more cost-effective solution would be to have centralised readers at each recycling centre and use the existing household recycling system. The readers would utilise a similar universal data detector as used in supermarket checkouts. Plastic bottle manufacturers would be required to provide a blank space alongside the existing bar code to receive a sticker or stamp to be placed there by the member of the public doing the recycling. Members of the public would register for the refund system and be issued with their bespoke stickers or stamp that would be read at the recycling centre and that data used to credit their account.
Penalise any manufacturer not prepared to be involved and use the funds to fund the development of the registration / reader software and sticker / stamp technology.
The barcode could also contain information about the plastic to facilitate waste sorting.
Litter picking could be encouraged if anyone finding discarded unstamped bottles might be allowed to get the refund.
Incentives in addition to the refund might be lottery entry, possibly.
Enhancements to the scheme would be to extend to other packaging, develop a cheap laser etcher for the stamp.