Industry News

TOMRA opens an innovative takeaway packaging system in Aarhus

by | Jan 25, 2024

The ‘world’s first’ open-managed system for reusable takeaway packaging has been started by TOMRA and the municipality of Aarhus. This system will be beneficial to multiple parties and will propel the drive for reducing plastic waste forwards, through the new system’s potential to help the environment, as well as encouraging other places to move away from single-use plastic packaging.

This system has been operating as a pilot project for three years and the purpose of the system is to allow packaging from various food and drink providers to be returned easily to a shared infrastructure of automated collection points, spread throughout the city. These points are available 24/7 and through their deposit return scheme, the company hope to encourage high return rates. This would mean that when the consumer is buying their products, they pay a deposit for the container and once they have returned the container, the deposit is returned to them.

Currently, the system is in its initial stage and is compatible with hot and cold drinks containers, including takeaway coffee cups. The system operates through instructions which advise the customer to tap a contactless payment method, which activates the collection point and once the purchase is completed and the container is returned, the deposit for the container is directly transferred back onto the customer’s card.

One issue that could be seen with this system is sanitation of the containers, however TOMRA has already thought of this and combatted the issue. TOMRA will periodically and regularly empty the machines and transport the packaging to an industrial facility in Aarhus, which will be dedicated to sanitizing the products. After being cleaned, the cleaning process will be followed up by a quality inspection and once approved as clean, according to a good quality standard, the containers will re-enter the system when a new order is made. TOMRA chose to complete this sanitation process in an industrial sanitation facility in Aarhus, which means that businesses who provide the product for the containers do not need to worry about collecting and cleaning their containers themselves. This is one of the biggest benefits of this system and it has also been suggested by TOMRA that making businesses collect the containers themselves, is the reason why this sort of system has not been successful in the past.

This kind of a system has the potential to bring multiple benefits to the takeaway industry, as it reduces the amount of single-use plastic containers considerably. This reduction has the excellent result of creating a large decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. Statistics have shown that moving away from single-use cups for hot and cold drinks, has the ability to reduce emissions by a minimum of 70%. The plan for this system’s future is to research and experiment with ways to include other kinds of takeaway packaging and to generate an efficient and convenient system within cities. The expectation for this system is for it to benefit businesses, consumers and the environment, especially through increasing the use of available resources and decreasing waste production rates.

Alderman for Technical Services and Environment, Aarhus Municipality, Nicolaj Bang, commented, “Aarhus wants to be a greener and more sustainable city, and one which has the courage to test new solutions. That is why I am really happy that today 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. 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.”

President and CEO of TOMRA, Tove Andersen, added, “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. 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.”

TOMRA’s senior vice president and head of TOMRA Reuse, Geir Sæther, mentioned, “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. 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.”

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