Tesco tries high-tech recycling

The Tesco supermarket in Winchester, England, launched the first-of-its-kind automated container recycling center, developed by Tomra.

Pw 12029 Tesco

It replaces a series of igloo container collection bins at the store.

What makes the Tesco center unique is that Tomra developed advanced material recognition and compaction technology. At one of three stations, consumers can load a bottle or can and the system identifies the material at a rate of 40/min then drops the container onto a circular conveyor that carries it to the designated compaction area.

Because of the compaction, the center can hold the equivalent of 50 recycling igloos so it needs emptying far fewer times. The precise sorting, using special cameras, enhanced metal sensors and near-infrared spectroscopy, provides increased recycling value to Tesco and more convenience to consumers. The new recycling center was unveiled Dec. 6, 2004.

Plastics and metals are granulated via a patented system that reduces volume by a ratio of 15:1; glass is compacted at a ratio of 3:1. Paper products can be inserted into one of three slots. The pilot system at Tesco collects steel and aluminum, clear and colored glass, clear PET and mixed plastics, along with paper. It also provides a bin to collect what it identifies as contamination from the collection streams.

“Our customers tell us they’re keen to recycle more,” points out David North, Tesco’s director of corporate responsibility. “Not all households have access to curbside recycling, and many people are attracted to the idea of bringing their empties for recycling when they go to the supermarket to shop.”

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