Tomra launches 24/7 public DRS points in Denmark for reusable takeaway packaging
22 Jan 2024 — Tomra is trialing a new DRS system in Aarhus, Denmark, intended to enable a shift from single-use to reusable takeaway packaging. The scheme is designed as an open system, where packaging from different providers can be returned 24/7 to a shared infrastructure of automated collection points throughout a city.
Tomra says its system provides unique convenience for businesses delivering takeaway F&B — like cafés and quick-service restaurants — and consumers.
“Aarhus wants to be a greener and more sustainable city and one which has the courage to test new solutions. That is why Aarhus is launching its own deposit system for to-go cups, and that there are so many food establishments in the city that have already shown an interest in providing the cups,” says Nicolaj Bang, alderman for Technical Services and Environment, Aarhus Municipality.
“We have worked hard in recent years to make this happen, and now it’s time to really test its application in reality. I hope that the residents of Aarhus will embrace this new to-go cup system and that during this pilot project, we will hopefully be able to take the next steps needed to expand the system to include several types of takeaway packaging.”
Ensuring return rates
High packaging return rates will be ensured by having monetary return incentives, which in the Aarhus pilot will mean a deposit paid when purchasing the takeaway food or drink and a full reimbursement upon return.
“This is a very important project for Tomra and a key part of the ambitious plans to use our systemic know-how and technological expertise to create new innovative solutions that will provide expanded benefits for businesses, consumers and society,” says Tomra president and CEO Tove Andersen.
Tomra’s collection and sanitization facility.“We are thrilled to be able to partner with such a forward-thinking city as Aarhus, and look forward to the positive impact we can make together in shaping a more sustainable future.”
In the first stage, the system focuses on hot and cold drink containers, such as takeaway coffee cups. When returning the cups to one of the collection points, the customer receives the deposit reimbursement directly on their card or account. This is possible by tapping a contactless payment credential (card, phone, smartwatch, etc.) to activate the dedicated Tomra collection point.
The payment system is enabled through a collaboration with Visa, MasterCard and Shift4.
Collection and sanitization
In addition to providing bespoke automated collection machines for reusable takeaway packaging, Tomra is also responsible for emptying the machines and transporting the packaging to its own industrial sanitation facility in Aarhus.
The sanitized cups are then quality inspected and ready to return to the system when retailers order new supplies via a convenient online webshop.
“Tomra believes reusable takeaway packaging will be an increasingly important and necessary part of a circular approach to waste management, and we are determined to provide novel, attractive and efficient solutions to enable this. We believe that a shared infrastructure with automated collection points is a prerequisite for successful implementation,” says Geir Sæther, Tomra senior vice president and head of Tomra Reuse.
“In addition to the technical setup, another key success factor for broader adoption is that the system is accompanied by policy frameworks that will ensure that these systems are utilized. We are confident that with this pilot project, we will demonstrate that reusable takeaway packaging is a viable alternative going forward.”
Tomra, therefore, ensures businesses don’t need to take back and sanitize packaging themselves, which it says has been a struggle for most alternative reuse-based takeaway packaging systems. The combination of automated collection and industrialized sanitization means that the system can be scaled to a future where reusable packaging is the norm and not the exception, says the company.
After the initial phase, which is focused on hot and cold drink beverage cups, the plan is to increase the scope of materials to cover more types of takeaway packaging, providing a holistic and transparent system that can be utilized by all within a city.
This will contribute to both better use of resources and help prevent litter in the urban environment. The use of reusable takeaway also has significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to the continued use of single-use takeaway packaging.
According to a recent study, by moving away from single-use cups (for both warm and cold drinks), the potential reduction in GHG emissions is at least 70%. Besides the environmental benefits and helping to achieve sustainability goals, the system for reusable takeaway packaging also generates local jobs in the community, according to Tomra.
By Louis Gore-Langton
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