With alarming growth worldwide in plastic pollution, TOMRA Collection Solutions’ reverse vending technology seeks to make the recycling experience for returning empty drink containers as convenient and user-friendly as possible.
Every minute, one million plastic bottles are bought around the world. That equated to more than 480 billion sold in 2016, with that number estimated to rise 20 per cent by 2021. Thirty-two per cent of all discarded plastic packaging ends up in nature, polluting communities and the world’s oceans. In fact, the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans every minute. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight.
An increasingly popular solution to the global plastic crisis is deposit return systems. These schemes work by adding a small deposit on top of the price of a beverage, which is refunded to the consumer when they return the empty drink container for recycling. To make the en masse return of bottles and cans more efficient and convenient, many deposit return systems use automated “reverse vending machines”. Reverse vending machines instantly count the number of containers returned, sort away ineligible containers, and pay out the correct deposit refund to recyclers – much faster than is possible through manual, human handling.
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Deposit return systems provide a financial incentive for consumers to return drink containers, which might otherwise be littered or thrown in landfill. Reverse vending machines make recycling more convenient for both end users and the sites that receive the containers back (such as redemption depots or retailers, depending on local legislation).
By separating bottles and cans for recycling through reverse vending machines, drink containers are collected without contamination from other types of waste in a household recycling bin. This ensures containers can be recycled into new bottles and cans in a closed loop, which TOMRA calls Clean Loop Recycling, promoting a circular economy.
Deposit return systems see up to almost 100 per cent of all drink containers returned for recycling. No other waste collection system comes even close to such high return rates. These schemes are in place in 40 regions worldwide. Calls are increasing around the world for other countries to follow suit, with the UN Environment Programme in December 2017 encouraging all nations to implement deposit return systems. The European Commission in May 2018 proposed requirements for member states to collect 90 per cent of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, through initiatives such as deposit return systems.
Founded in 1972, TOMRA is the world’s largest provider of reverse vending machines, with approximately 80 000 installations in over 60 markets. TOMRA’s reverse vending solutions capture 40 billion used beverage containers every year to be continually reused and recycled back into new bottles and cans. In November 2019, the company launched TOMRA R1, which enables recyclers to pour over 100 empty beverage containers into the machine at one time.
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