Imagine an intelligent reverse vending machine for depositing your waste, which identifies it for you as recyclable or not. This is now a reality.
In line with its recent announcement to achieve zero packaging waste to landfill by 2022, Woolworths has now launched a customer trial of an integrated reverse vending machine in its flagship green store in Claremont.
“It might seem like a fun innovation because it’s so smart, but this is actually an important trial,” said Feroz Koor, Woolworths Holdings Group head of sustainability.
“Packaging plays a vital role in protecting products. The effort to reduce pollution is not just about finding the ways to minimise packaging in a responsible way; it is also about supporting consumers’ in their efforts to recycle, which in turn, boosts the country’s recycling industry.
“We know from customer surveys and social media conversations that many customers are concerned about reducing waste and we hope they will be keen to put the recycling vending machine through its paces so that it can be perfected and rolled out to more stores,” the group said.
How it works
The vending machine identifies recyclability by scanning product bar codes and has been tested at Woolworths’ head office in Cape Town.
Employees’ recycling efforts helped refine and expand the database and the user experience of the smart machine to amass a database of recyclable packaging barcodes that includes both Woolies products and other popular brands sold elsewhere, the group said.
Takeaway paper coffee cups with bar codes, glass and tin containers, plastic bottles and containers up to the 2.25 litre size and Tetrapak are all accepted by the vending machine.
To make use of the machine and be a part of the process, consumers log in as a user of the recycling vending machine via their mobile phones and deposit their clean, barcoded recyclable items.
As part of the scanning and sorting of recyclable items, the user immediately receives a SMS confirmation of their deposit along with an encouraging congratulations on being an eco-warrior.
A local recycler is then alerted when the machine is reaching its capacity to collect the materials, and is an integral part of the process that ensures that recyclable packaging does not needlessly end up in landfills.
Woolworths said the ‘broad plan’ is to trial the machine in Palmyra for 3 months. Over this time period it will be assessing frequency of use, optimal location, volume of recycling, customer feedback and experience, logistics of servicing etc.
Recycling vending machines are increasingly common internationally where consumers participate actively in daily environmentally-friendly practices.
“Our ZERO waste to landfill journey is supported by many Woolies customers,” Koor concludes. “We know that they will appreciate this innovation, and that they recognise that we can’t walk this path alone. From producers to the household, and then beyond to include the South African recycling industry, we need to go forward towards ZERO waste to landfill, hand-in-hand.”