Tesco launches first fully automated recycling machine

Related tags Recycling Tesco

UK supermarket Tesco has launched the country's first fully
automated recycling machine designed to encourage customers to
recycle more packaging waste.

The machine takes the hassle out of recycling by automatically sorting the plastic, metal and glass, using the latest technology to process up to 80 items per minute.

The supermarket claims that the high-tech machine will dramatically increase the amount of waste that is recycled in the UK. Trials have suggested that the new equipment encourages customers to triple the amount of waste they bring to stores for recycling, providing a huge boost to the environment.

Recycling is becoming a key issue in manufacturing. UK businesses that attempt to increase profits at the expense of the environment have been told that they face tougher fines. A recent environment agency report entitled Spotlight on Business: Environmental Performance in 2003​ showed that 11 company directors last year received fines of up to £20,000 for pollution incidents, around four times as many as five years ago.

The UK's packaging industry also has to find new methods of disposal. The country has a history of using landfills to dispose of both hazardous and non-hazardous wastes cheaply and easily, but this practice of co-disposal will be banned from 16 July 2004.

In adition, the number of landfills licensed to deal with hazardous waste in England and Wales will drop from 200 to 10 in mid July, which the agency warns will have a significant impact on the ability of business to dispose of their wastes.

This is likely to impact heavily on the food processing industry. According to the Environment Agency, the UK's food and drink sector produces between seven and eight million tonnes of waste per year. Tesco's initiative therefore suggests that the retail sector, which often drives manufacturers to develop more elaborate packaging, can help achieve the reduction in packaging waste that both government and pressure groups are demanding.

"I am delighted to see retailers using their unique position to help encourage their customers to recycle,"​ said Margaret Beckett, secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs.

"With nine out of ten people saying they would recycle if it was easier to do so, the new Tesco facility will hopefully attract a new generation of recyclers and encourage those who already do to recycle more."

The recycling machine is based on a relatively straightforward idea. Users drop their waste in any of the three user stations, which is then identified by a high-resolution camera, (used in satellite surveillance systems) circulated on a conveyor system and correctly sorted into container bins.

Plastic is then shredded by revolving high speed knives moving at over 60km/h and glass is crushed by revolving throw-arms throwing bottles at an in-built stone wall.

Breaking the waste down in this way allows the machine to hold the equivalent of 50 normal recycling igloos - a compaction ratio of 15:1 for plastic and 3:1 for glass. It is only emptied half as many times as a traditional recycling container.

The technology was developed by Norwegian company Tomra, which has been involved in this sort of technology for over 30 years.

"We are excited that Tesco has chosen Tomra as a partner in bringing a more efficient and environmentally friendly way of recycling to the UK,"​ said Tomra executive vice president & chief operating officer Morthen Johannessen.

"This Recycling Centre concept being tested in Winchester is the first of its kind anywhere in the world. We are confident that the benefits of this new recycling technology will lead to further development of the concept in other locations."

The Winchester centre will be the first Tesco unit in the UK but if successful there are plans to build further units across the country.

"Our customers tell us they're keen to recycle more. Not all households have access to kerbside recycling, and many people are attracted to the idea of bringing their empties for recycling when they go to the supermarket to shop,"​ said Tesco corporate repsonsibility director David North.

"But customers want the experience to be convenient, quick and easy, and that's why our new machines are so exciting. By listening to our customers and responding to their desire to do more, we're set to provide a huge boost to the environment."

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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