This article by Markus Fraval, SVP, Business Development and Strategy, TOMRA Collection (Pacific), forms part of a special sustainability feature showcasing eco-friendly and environmental innovators. The article was first published in SCN‘s – September/October Mini Guns edition.
Locally, in partnership with Cleanaway, TOMRA is the network operator for the NSW government’s ‘Return and Earn’ scheme. In less than four years, the NSW scheme has recycled more than 5.5 billion containers, making it Australia’s biggest Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) and arguably the largest circular economy initiative in the country. New schemes coming online in Victoria and Tasmania will provide even more opportunities for TOMRA and shopping centres to be part of this positive change.
How retail recycling partnerships are shaping sustainability
TOMRA’s partnerships with many of Australia’s leading shopping centre owners help keep more than two billion used beverage containers a year out of landfill, waterways and our oceans. TOMRA aims to more than double that total in the next four years.
The Tasmanian government has announced its ‘container refund scheme’ will commence late next year, and the Victorian government announced its scheme will commence in 2023. Together with partner Cleanaway, TOMRA will put forward proposals for the network operator role in each of these new schemes. Both Victoria and Tasmania will encourage collection points at or in shopping centres and retail locations to maximise convenience for consumers – thereby maximising container return rates and sustainability outcomes. This is different to other schemes in Australia where scheme structures require larger return point footprints and offer limited opportunities in retail settings.
While TOMRA does operate some large format collection points away from retail settings in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the appetite of TOMRA’s retail partners to play a role in sustainability has been a big part of the company’s success to date.
TOMRA currently has reverse vending machine (RVM) kiosks located at shopping centres owned by AMP Capital, Charter Hall, Dexus, Frasers, Haben, ISPT, Lederer, Lendlease, Mintus, Mirvac, SCA Property Group, Scentre Group, Stockland and Vicinity Centres. RVM kiosks are also located in centres managed by Colliers and JLL as well as bulky goods specialists Aventus and HomeCo. Supermarket partners, Woolworths and Coles, have also integrated their point-of-sale systems with the TOMRA platform to enable our shared customers to easily redeem vouchers issued by reverse vending machines.
In NSW, this retail partnership approach has been a win-win. Shopping centres benefit from increased foot traffic and gain a new source of rental income, while TOMRA’s retail partners receive a sales boost as customers redeem their vouchers in-store. Consumers enjoy the convenience of doing their recycling at the same time as shopping, and over the same flexible hours as their regular shopping trips. Meanwhile charities reap the benefit of donations. An example being TOMRA’s ‘Bottles for the Bush’ campaign that raised more than $500,000 for Rural Aid last year. Above all, there is more recycling and fewer bottles and cans rotting in landfill or choking our waterways and oceans, which is a win for everyone.
Research commissioned by TOMRA found the location of collection points at shopping centres has a significant effect on consumer shopping behaviour and attitudes: 13% of people in NSW say they have changed their shopping destination to one with a collection point (RVM kiosk) and another 17% shop more frequently at a location that has one, while 42% of respondents say they feel more positively about the participating retailer as a result. In other words, recycling has become part of the customer experience and an expectation at shopping centres. Collection points are a strategic advantage for centres that embrace them and, potentially, a disadvantage for those who don’t.
Many of our shopping centre partners now view their sustainability contribution in broader terms than just their own footprint – they see hosting a collection point as a way to help serve the communities in which they are located.
The NSW scheme has been a resounding success with more than 75% of people participating and 88% public support, according to the scheme coordinator, Exchange for Change. The schemes in Victoria and Tasmania are likely to be similarly embraced by the community and become part of everyday life.
TOMRA maintains its technology leadership by re-investing approximately 8% of turnover in R&D, one of the factors in TOMRA being awarded ‘European Company of the Year’ three times in the past ten years. TOMRA plans to draw on its successful partnerships with major retailers and global consumer goods companies around the world to bring fresh innovations to Victoria and Tasmania.
One example will be the introduction of Australia’s first ‘in-store’ or ‘in-centre’ reverse vending machines. This compact equipment has been best practice in Europe for some time. It will mean customers have the convenience of returning their containers right inside their local supermarket or shopping centre. Based on our experience in Europe, TOMRA believes this is the way of the future and we’re already talking to interested Australian supermarkets and developers about plans to introduce the concept.
We are also developing ‘one-stop’ solutions for supermarkets and shopping centres where consumers can bring a range of common recyclables – including beverage containers, soft plastics, batteries, mobile phones and refillable containers – to one convenient ‘front-of-house’ location.
A further example is in payment solutions. In line with the rapid shift to a cashless society, TOMRA already provides digital refund payments direct to a customer’s bank account via the myTOMRA app. But we are also working with retail partners to enable refunds from recycling to be paid straight into the retailer’s financial ecosystem. In Europe, TOMRA recently implemented a digital API solution that allows customers doing their recycling to have their refund paid directly into their preferred retailer’s digital wallet. This is an incredibly powerful innovation for the retailer and for the customer – and the same is also possible for the conversion of recycling refunds into retail loyalty points.
As consumers’ environmental awareness continues to grow, TOMRA aims to assist its shopping centre and retail partners to address this emerging demand by making circular economy solutions ever easier and more attractive for you and your customers. We hope you can join us on this journey.