Tomra R1 behind the scenes: Developing a revolutionary recycling experience

Launching the Tomra R1

After the extensive testing, Tomra R1 hit the market in November 2019 for Norway, Sweden, and redemption centers in the US. The brand new multi-feed RVM launched with the tagline “Recycling just got more WOW!”, reflecting the response many consumers gave during the test phase when trying out Tomra R1 for the first time. The R in the Tomra R1 name was added to highlight the Revolution in transforming the recycling experience. After the years of development, Katrin missed the launch of Tomra R1 by just a few weeks, when she began her maternity leave in October. “Now I had another launch of my own to plan for.”

The Tomra R1 launch attracted huge interest, with the news published both in the launch markets and internationally in media covering retail, packaging, waste management and technology media, as well as regional media local to the stores. The Norwegian national broadcaster NRK even visited the research and development facility at Tomra headquarters to film Tomra R1 in action.

The value of a revolutionary recycling experience​ - Tomra Talk

The new multi-feed machine made its trade show debut at EuroShop, the world’s largest retail trade fair, in Dusseldorf in February 2020. Tomra R1 was the star of the show, with Tomra’s booth attracting over 600 visits from 60 nationalities. Tomra had 30 press visits and more than 40 articles about its EuroShop news. Head of Product & Solution Management, Gudbrand Arnesen, also presented a talk at EuroShop on the value of a revolutionary recycling experience. “The recycling experience does matter,” he presented. “Your consumers care about the environment and they want to do good, if you give them the opportunity to do so. It all starts with increasing the rate of return. The best possible recycling experience will drive revenue and loyalty through increased footfall.”

In August 2020, Finland became the first new market to introduce Tomra R1 since the original launch of the product in Norway, Sweden and the US. The solution made its Finnish debut at the supermarket K-Citymarket Tammisto in the city of Vantaa. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, their installation became the first Tomra R1 to operate 24/7. The first Tomra R1 collected 28,000 drink containers in a single day during the first week of launch, setting a new record for containers collected at a Tomra RVM. Installations at a second and third Finnish supermarkets followed within a few weeks. The third store invited their shoppers to help break the previous record for bottles and cans returned to a Tomra R1 in a single day - reaching 33,000 containers! Retailers found more ways to get creative with how they shared their Tomra R1 news. “Beverage container return is significantly faster and easier with the new Tomra R1. I believe that the Tomra R1 will attract customers to us and make returning containers even easier,” said Kimmo Sivonen, store owner at K-Citymarket Tammisto.

A recycling anniversary

One year since its initial launch, there are now over 50 Tomra R1s live across Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and US – and rolling out to more markets in future.

First prototype at supermarket Meny Borreveien in Norway
First prototype at supermarket Meny Borreveien in Norway

The team has already innovated upon the Tomra R1 since launch, with a preview of the “Express” returns concept. Express enables recyclers to leave the Tomra R1 and start their shopping or other activities while the machine is still processing the containers. The recycling refund will be received electronically once the processing is complete, through the myTomra app – part of the Tomra portfolio of digital products, for extending the value of using and owning a reverse vending machine. With no need for recyclers to manually handle each container or wait at the machine to receive a voucher, Tomra R1 with Express offers the first completely automated container recycling experience (the "self-driving car of container recycling"), offering an even more convenient and user-friendly experience.

“Our hope is to truly transform people’s recycling experience, and to make recycling fun and up to date. If recyclers also see they save time using Tomra R1, it will be a good way to motivate people to recycle more,” said Katrin. “For retailers and bottle depots, we hope they will be happy to see satisfied customers, and that Tomra R1 can bring more people to their location, to increase their revenue and impact. It is exciting to see how far Tomra R1 has come and the impact it is making for retailers and recyclers alike.”

It is not only the user experience where Tomra R1 seeks to make a difference. “With alarming growth worldwide in plastic pollution and greater awareness of the problem, we want to make recycling as convenient and enjoyable as possible,” said Gudbrand. “The rapid returns at Tomra R1 make it even more motivating to recycle empty drink containers. This means more can be turned into new bottles again and again, reducing reliance on raw materials for producing new containers. Recyclers can save the planet, one bottle at a time… or, in this case, over 100 bottles at a time.”