Michigan Meijer goes high-tech with new recycling machine
- A Meijer store in Cadillac, Michigan is installing its eighth reverse vending machine (RVM) that collects empty beverage containers like bottles and cans for recycling, according to The Shelby Report. Meijer began adding the machines to its stores last year. The RVM reads barcodes and security marks, and can accept container types that other recycling technologies can’t.
- The most recent Meijer installation marks the 500th RVM in America for Norway-based technology firm Tomra, which launched in the U.S. a year ago. A pioneer in automated recycling technology, Tomra had 90,000 machines installed in over 80 markets by the end of 2016.
- Consumers who are members of the “Tomra Makes Change” loyalty program can earn rewards in addition to cash back in states that require deposits on purchased bottles and cans. Member account information can be accessed directly on the RVM’s touchscreen display, its website or through its mobile app.
Bottled water surpassed carbonated soft drinks in 2016 to become the largest beverage category by volume in the U.S., according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation. Health advocates are cheering, but some environmentalists give pause because of the huge amount of waste generated from plastic bottles. Consumers around the world go through almost 1.8 trillion beverage containers a year, according to RVM maker Tomra. This is an enormous amount of packaging material that can be collected and reused or recycled.
Tomra reports that 35 billion used beverage containers are collected every year by its machines. In addition to getting cash deposits back on bottles and cans where required by law, the “Tomra Makes Change” rewards program encourages recycling through use of an incentive system. Consumers earn a point for every recycled container, which can then be used to redeem prizes such as earbuds, fitness trackers and gift cards. Alternatively, consumers have the option to donate their points to various charities.
Along with Meijer, nine-unit Key Food stores in the New York City area have RVMs installed in their locations. Owner Ruben Luna is quoted on Tomra’s website as saying, “Before Tomra, it was a gigantic mess trying to deal with our bottle and can returns. They were everywhere. With [the Tomra] machines…I’m all set. Tomra picks up the material, customers get paid, and I make money every month on the machines.” The machines have simplified the container collection and deposit refund process. In just one of his stores alone, Luna reports that customers are returning, on average, 300,000 to 500,000 containers a month, “which translates to $2,000−$3,000 a month for just that store from the handling fees.”
The Meijer/Tomra partnership makes sense since Meijer’s home state of Michigan is one of the 10 U.S. states with a container deposit law — which currently costs consumers 10 cents per container in Michigan. With about half the company’s 235 supercenters located in Michigan, installing the RVMs makes the return process more efficient for both shoppers and stores. What would be more enticing, perhaps, is if the Tomra rewards program synched with Meijer mPerks loyalty scheme to allow shoppers to use earned rewards on future purchases inside the store.
Still, with the exception of the 10 bottle bill states, it seems the RVMs could be a hard sell. Consumers likely will continue to lean on the convenience of their own recycling bins and collection services at home rather than the hassle (and mess) of hauling used containers to a grocery store recycling machine.
- The Shelby Report Cadillac Meijer Gets 500th Tomra Reverse Vending Machine
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