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Ethical vending machine that loves small change

Using 1, 2, or 5c coins to buy low-cost ethical snacks helps local business and the economy

A company in Aubervilliers, north of Paris, has developed a vending machine which accepts those 1, 2 and 5 centime coins – known as pièces rouges - which seem to have no value.
Their machines, called Les Petits Prix au Grand Coeurs, sell low-cost ethical snacks and can be found in shopping centres, railway stations, and university campuses throughout France.
Randolph Mas is one of the founders of the company Centimeo: “The idea is to recycle centimes. Consumers are keen to get rid of the coins. When we collect them, we use a local bank which redistributes them to shops for their tills. It is a boost to local economies.”
As it costs 4c to make a 1c coin, and the government has to order one billion so-called ‘red coins’ a year to keep the coins in circulation, these machines also help the national economy.
“We sell chewing-gums, biscuits, toffees, mint sweets or chocolate. The chewing-gum in our machines is bio-degradable, the toffees are only sold in vending machines local to the production site and the chocolate is fair trade.
“We keep prices low. We don’t make a great deal of profit but we make our money by buying cheaply from producers who we are helping by giving them a platform for their products.”
The first machines, which take coins up to 50c, were installed in the Paris region in 2013.
Now, the aim is to have 1,000 machines in service by the end of this year.

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