Upcycled Vending Machines and Eco-Friendly Dispensers

Vending machines, first introduced in the 1800s for dispensing stamps and newspapers, have evolved significantly over time, and now dispense snacks, chocolates, water bottles, and cool drinks; these machines have become staples in daily lives. We have compiled a list of some of the most creative, sustainable, and upcycled vending machines designed for modern consumers. These innovative machines range from upcycled creations to sustainable refill stations and other dispensers that showcase environmental sustainability in a fun and creative manner, serving both as educational tools and a means to raise awareness.


Upcycled Ski Gondola

A ski gondola, typically used as cable transportation for tourists at ski resorts, has found a new lease on life in an inventive repurposing project. In 2013, Baker Wardlaw had upcycled an old Swiss gondola into a giant vending machine for the "Verbier Mountain Climbers" exhibition at the Design Miami/Basel international fair in Basel, Switzerland. This large upcycled vending machine was reimagined as a toy dispenser, making use of the expansive panels of the old ski gondola, with a toy dispenser mechanism added to its side. Along with this unique vending machine, two other gondolas were creatively turned into art objects. All of the gondolas were sourced from the Swiss village of Verbier and were eventually auctioned off. This innovative and sustainable project was brought to life by three entrepreneurs: Ins Flammarion, Nicolas Bernheim, and Albert Schrurs, to encourage environmental consciousness with creative reuse for a noble cause.

(Image credit: Design Miami/Basel, Baker Wardlaw, photo by Annik Wetter)


Upcycled Train Vending Machine

In Tokyo, there was an unexpected upcycling creation involving two of the most commonly seen and used elements in Japan: the bustling metro system and the popular use of vending machines. One such vending machine was created from an upcycled makeover of a subway station's metro train in 2019. A retired metro train, which had served the city's subway system for three to four decades, was upcycled into a unique vending machine. This repurposing effort retained the train's original colour and other elements, aptly earning the name "Vending Train." This creative recreation was a collaborative effort between Tokyo Metro and Suntory Beverage & Food. The vending machine quickly gained popularity across Japan, celebrated as the world's first upcycled vending machine made from an old Japanese metro train. This project presents sustainable practices and the potential for repurposing in urban environments.

(Image credit: Tokyo Metro Train, Suntory Food & Beverage)


Upcycled Vintage Cigarette Vending Machine

Art-O-Mat machines are innovative repurposed vending machines, originally designed to dispense cigarettes, that now offer miniature artworks, each sized like a cigarette packet and created by global artists. The brainchild of artist Clark Whittington, the first Art-O-Mat was introduced in 1997 as a unique art installation. These miniature art pieces, available for just five dollars, have become widely accessible across the U.S. Whittington's creative upcycling idea was inspired by admiration for the charming vintage design of cigarette dispensers, which translated into art vending machines. This concept gives new life to old machines and makes tiny art creations accessible to a broader audience in an engaging and interactive way.

(Image credit: Art-O-Mat Vending Machine)
Reverse Plastic Vending Machine
Olyns is rethinking the recycling industry by connecting consumers with brands in an environmentally friendly manner. The company’s mission is to reduce plastic waste. Their innovation, the Olyns Cube, is a machine enhanced with AI technology designed to make recycling convenient. These machines are strategically placed in areas like grocery stores across the U.S., ensuring easy access for many customers. In 2022, Olyns partnered with Mars Wrigley, the globally recognised manufacturer of candies such as M&M's, Snickers, and Skittles. Together, they launched a reverse vending machine, the 'Olyns Cube'. This collaboration focuses on a circular model to recycle rigid plastic candy containers. Positioned in select locations in California, these machines function uniquely: instead of requiring a coin, users can deposit any empty candy or gum container and in return, receive reward points. This initiative encourages recycling and offers a tangible incentive for consumers to engage in sustainable practices.
(Image credit: Mars and Olyns Reverse Vending Machine)

Sustainable Refill & Reuse Vending Machine
Qyos by Algramo is pioneering a sustainable solution to tackle the problem of single-use plastic waste through its user-friendly refill vending machines, purposefully placed in Indonesian households with high resident populations. These machines, accessible 24/7, are equipped with QR codes and dispense everyday hygiene products such as shampoos, sanitizers, liquid soaps, and dishwashing liquids. Designed for touchless operation, Qyos machines provides refills and offers the option to rent reusable containers, further reducing waste. Qyos has formed partnerships with various FMCG brands to amplify its impact. They collaborated with Nestlé to introduce a refill vending machine initiative aimed at cutting down plastic usage significantly. Integrating these machines into daily life, Qyos seeks to raise environmental consciousness, encourage reuse and promote sustainable living practices among the community.
(Image credit: Qyos Refill Vending Machine)
The exploration of these unique vending machines reveals the potential for everyday technology to contribute positively to environmental sustainability. Through the reimagination of traditional vending machines, a new step forward is taken in preserving resources and inspiring communities to adopt sustainable practices. These machines offer more than just convenience; they encourage us to think differently about consumption and waste. It is through such innovative solutions that a more sustainable future can be promoted to raise awareness and build a culture of responsibility towards the planet.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

You may also like

View all
Example blog post
Example blog post
Example blog post