In the newly renovated bottle return area of K-Citymarket in Forssa's Kutomo shopping center, two TOMRA T9s and one TOMRA R1 reverse vending machines are ready for use. The reverse vending machines panels have been covered with old-time images reminiscent of the history of Forssa Spinning and Kutomo, giving both the machines and the entire bottle return area a unique appearance.
Tremendous leap in reverse vending technology
Mikko Virtanen, a Forssa Citymarket retailer who has been in the retail industry for more than 25 years, returns a bag of plastic bottles into the TOMRA R1. The machine processes the empty beverage containers and prints out a receipt after a few minutes. “There has been a tremendous leap in bottle returns in this millennium,” says Virtanen. He recalls how plastic bottles were returned in the mid-1990s, when he had to cross his fingers that the bottle would remain upright in the reverse vending machine and the machine would accept the bottles without any problems. “The technology has developed significantly and now the TOMRA R1 has brought us to the point that the customer can pour over a hundred plastic bottles into the machine at once, close the door and whistle while they wait,” Virtanen adds. The technical development and speed of the machines are reflected in the return quantities of K-Citymarket Forssa bottles. “The store's bottle return volumes have already doubled - thanks to the even smoother and faster machines that customers have accepted with open arms,” Virtanen concludes. The easy and user-friendly reverse vending systems are also reflected on the tidy bottle room. “Today’s bottle room is a neat place where it’s nice to work.”
Another technical leap, according to Virtanen, is the Notify+Assist application developed by TOMRA, which tells store staff about the status of their reverse vending machines and makes it easier for staff to manage store operations. The Notify+Assist app notifies staff on their phones when the reverse vending machine storage bins are filling up. “This way, the staff can schedule bin changes so that bottle returns can continue without interruption, and customers do not have to wait in vain," Virtanen sums up.
Ultimate customer experience
According to Virtanen, the high-speed TOMRA R1 plays a vital role in meeting and delivering on the needs of customers. “The customer experience is always the most important to us - and now it has been possible to make bottle return as effortless as possible for the customer,” says Virtanen. Enni Lahtinen, a customer in the Forssa K-Citymarket's bottle return area. “It is good to return bottles to machines like these - this is so clean and smooth,” says Enni, adding her appreciation for the fact that empty beverage containers no longer needs to be touched by hand when pouring them into TOMRA R1. “The bottles can already be sorted at home by placing the glass bottles in a separate small bag and the plastic bottles and cans in a larger bag, so the plastic bottles and cans can then be conveniently poured directly into the R1 machine in the store,” Enni continues.