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High-Tech In-Store Machine Incentivizes Recycling

Artificial intelligence (AI) and NFC-equipped machine — testing at Safeway stores — accepts aluminum cans and PET and glass bottles. It was designed by an entrepreneur from Apple and an aerospace engineer.

Rick Lingle, Senior Technical Editor

July 28, 2021

4 Min Read

What if recycling of plastic, glass, and metal beverage containers was done at supermarket to make it convenient?  And what if the recycling machine was so easy to use and loaded with high-tech components so that it was more like a large, attractive device?

Who knew recycling could be so simple and look so sleek? It really should encourage people to recycle more. Such an elegant solution was engineered by Olyns, a leader in technology-centric recycling solutions, which announced July 28 the launch of its new bottle collection machine designed for high-traffic, indoor locations. To increase recycling of plastics, the innovative solution provides a convenient way for consumers to redeem bottle deposits while earning rewards through a mobile app. The approach also helps break down barriers surrounding the collection and transportation of recyclables. A single Olyns machine can deliver more than one and a half metric tons of clean recycled PET per year.

 "The lack of plastics recycling is a global emergency. At Olyns, we are helping meet the critical demand for recycled plastic that otherwise would end up in our landfills and oceans," says Philip Stanger, CEO of Olyns. "We offer a convenient and rewarding infrastructure for consumers to recycle, empower gig workers to have a positive impact on our environment, and help brands target their audiences on our sustainable media platform."

Earlier this year, PepsiCo partnered with Olyns to produce a pilot program in one Safeway store that to-date has grown to collecting nearly 1,000 containers per day or about 30 customers a day depositing. Additional Olyns machines have launched in Safeway stores in Milpitas and Santa Clara.

"We understand that there are challenges and confusion when it comes to recycling," said Tim Carey, Vice President of Sustainability at PepsiCo Beverages North America. "PepsiCo is committed to action, but we recognize that there is no single approach that works everywhere, and sustainable progress requires collaboration across industries. We are proud to partner with Olyns to make recycling more accessible for consumers and to do our part to continue supporting a closed loop system where packaging never becomes waste."


Other points of interest:

  • A single Olyns machine can compress and store more than 1,000 plastic bottles, 850 aluminum cans and 50 glass bottles, and deliver over one and a half metric tons of clean recycled PET per year

  • The clean and odorless machine features a 65-inch, full motion glass HD video display, offering a unique platform for advertisers to reach consumers;

  • The Olyns bottle collection machine crushes and separates materials, uses artificial-intelligence image recognition for dynamic deposit returns, and deploys touchless near-field communication (NFC) login via the Olyns mobile app to complete transactions;

  • In the 10 bottle bill states (states with bottle deposit laws to encourage recycling), Olyns can refund consumers through the Olyns app via Paypal for every container they deposit in a machine;

  • Uniquely, Olyns machines are serviced with the help of the gig economy, whose members use the Olyns mobile app to receive "empty machine" alerts to pick up and deliver deposited containers to recycling centers.

"At Safeway, we are committed to adding solutions that have a positive impact on the environment and give consumers convenient ways to contribute to this important effort," says Jimmy Costillas, Director of Front End Operations for Safeway. "We are excited to partner with Olyns on this pilot program at select locations. The Olyns platform is compelling because it provides value to our customers with a streamlined convenience and instant benefits to redeem CRV containers while they're shopping."

Olyns machines double as a media platform helping fund more consumer recycling incentives and company growth. Some 88% of consumers want brands to help them live more sustainably, giving brand owners an opportunity to reach this audience during their recycling experience. The dual-purpose screens can air inspiring content to drive the importance of recycling, and act as a powerful advertising network to communicate with millions of consumers and influence purchase decisions at points of sale.

Will it move the needle on recycling? Who really knows, but one thing’s for sure: It encourages recycling of rigid containers in a uniquely accessible, even enjoyable way, and that alone may spur more visionary developments to increase recycling.

A video of the Olyns recycling machine can be seen at YouTube.

About the Author(s)

Rick Lingle

Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday

Rick Lingle is Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree from Clarke College and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-481-1426.

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