Collaboration for tomorrow's world

TOMRA is committed to driving innovation and fostering a circular economy, and we believe that collaboration is key to achieving these goals. Tove Andersen, President and CEO at TOMRA, discusses the challenges and opportunities presented by emerging mega-trends, and the potential they hold for driving positive change. She calls for greater collaboration between TOMRA, our customers, and our partners, explaining that increased cooperation is essential to making tomorrow’s world more sustainable.

Tove Andersen, President and CEO of TOMRA

TOMRA's vision for sustainability 

Every minute, one million plastic bottles are purchased, yet less than half of them are collected and recycled. Additionally, nearly a third of all plastic packaging ultimately ends up in the environment, as litter. These figures indicate a troubling trajectory where, by 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. It continues to become clearer that our current way of life and the business practices of today are not sustainable. We need to change.

At TOMRA, we believe that businesses have the power, and the responsibility, to drive this change. In fact, we want to play a proactive role in driving this transformation forwards. That's why last year, during our 50th anniversary celebrations, TOMRA launched an ambitious strategy. This strategy aims to position TOMRA as a leading force in the Resource Revolution, accelerating the growth of our business while maximizing our positive impact on the planet. Our ambition is to do this as we also become a fully circular business where it is safe, fair, and inclusive to work.

Empowering retailers

Retailers are at the heart of the change that we need to see. They are in constant interaction with consumers, who are increasingly demanding sustainability measures, such as renewable resources, reduced energy emissions, minimized packaging, and greater use of recycled content. At TOMRA, we believe that we are the perfect partner to support retailers in their transition towards becoming more sustainable.

In practical terms, our collaboration with retailers aims to make their businesses not only more profitable, but also more environmentally responsible. The new reverse vending concepts we displayed at EuroShop 2023, as well as our continued work to reduce the environmental impact of our products, demonstrate our commitment to empowering retailers to become more sustainable and reduce their own environmental footprints.

Sustainability means innovation

Our innovation strategy has three focuses. Firstly, we focus on creating a better experience for consumers when they return their bottles. We want to ensure every reverse vending session is a great one, so that retailers have satisfied customers and that more containers are returned, thus increasing recycling rates and, crucially for retailers, driving store footfall

Secondly, we are committed to reducing the negative impacts associated with our products. This involves minimizing material consumption during production, incorporating more recycled content, and improving energy efficiency throughout the product's life cycle. Additionally, we emphasize responsible end-of-life management by promoting machine reuse and material recycling. 

The third important focus of our innovation strategy is the design of equipment that is easy to use, clean, and maintain. By streamlining these processes, we enable our customers' employees to allocate their time to other essential tasks. Through driving innovation, we not only contribute to retailers' success but also help them reduce their environmental impact. 

Collaboration for a circular economy

Achieving the necessary change extends beyond technological advancements alone. Currently, only 8% of the world's consumed resources are recycled. To make our collective presence in the world more sustainable, we recognize the need for a massive and systemic shift, which can only be accomplished through collaboration and partnerships. Presently, we want to work with our customers and key stakeholders to actively bring about this transformative change.

Several key actions must be taken to enable this shift. Firstly, we must move away from the linear economy and the familiar linear value chains we operate within. It is crucial to redefine value chains that embrace circularity, and this means cooperating with our current partners, as well as new ones, to make sure it happens.

Another step that must be taken is assigning value to waste, which is why deposit return systems for drink container recycling work so well. By giving waste value, we create incentives for its collection and recycling. To achieve a truly circular economy, it is necessary to assign value to all types of waste. Brave legislators, governments, and business leaders are needed to drive ambitious targets and take the lead in effecting this change.

Time to make a difference together

I am optimistic about our journey towards a world where nothing is wasted, as well as our movement towards a net-zero society – there are many signs that we are making progress. Businesses are not just talking about sustainability, but actively engaging in sustainable practices. Additionally, the tragic natural disasters we’ve seen throughout this year, such as floods, wildfires, and other extreme weather events, have amplified public awareness of climate change and means that consumers are pushing for change too.

Positive developments are also taking place in the legislative and political spheres. Last year, the United Nations achieved a significant milestone as 192 countries agreed to develop a global binding plastic treaty. These positive factors reinforce my cautious optimism, as they indicate that things are moving in the right direction.

However, the change we need is not happening fast enough. It has to go faster. To do that, we need to act – both as individuals, assuming responsibility for our actions, and as businesses. Together, we have the power to make a difference and drive this necessary change. But it is crucial that we act now. This is the time to make a difference and to create a better planet for us, our children, and our grandchildren – by working together.