myTOMRA deposit return system app reaches 10 million user sessions
TOMRA marks five years since the launch of the consumer fintech app for drink container recycling and examines its evolution and milestones
For the launch of the New South Wales deposit return system (DRS) in Australia, international reverse vending leader TOMRA Collection developed the myTOMRA app, launching on 30 November 2017. This free consumer fintech app sought to offer recyclers electronic payout of their deposit refund and find their nearest return point.
myTOMRA has since evolved to offer gamification, information on reverse vending status, and more payout options. In 2022 alone, the app:
- Became the world’s first consumer app for digital payout for an entire deposit system
- Launched APIs and a Developer Portal letting DRSs and stores integrate the technology with their own loyalty programs and apps
- Reached a new milestone of 10 million user sessions and the equivalent of 50 million euros paid in deposit refunds
A DRS works by adding a small deposit to the purchase price of a drink, which is refunded when a consumer returns the empty container for recycling. myTOMRA seeks to make DRS participation more engaging and convenient, and seamlessly integrate with today’s increasingly digital lifestyles. Learn more about the development behind myTOMRA, how it has matured since launch, and the results the app is achieving today.
Developing a new consumer recycling experience
The idea began as an intrapreneurship or “skunkworks” project, from TOMRA’s portfolio of digital products for extending the value of using and owning a reverse vending machine (RVM). This Internet Of Things platform officially launched in early 2017. It included access for RVM providers to reporting and analytics, notifications for when action is required at the machine, voucher control to secure refund receipts, and options to use the RVM as a marketing touchpoint.
An early direction for the platform was “consumer engagement” solutions: building a digital relationship with users through consumer identification, electronic payout, maps, and a loyalty/incentive program, all through a mobile app. Engaging consumers is key to the success of a DRS. TOMRA ran several pilots in the Mediterranean, Norway and the US, with trade shows, universities and DRS administrators. This enabled TOMRA to learn about who is using the program, their motivations, and what works (and doesn’t work) in a digital user journey for consumers.
“Our starting point was that there must be a value to knowing who is the recycler standing in front of the RVM,” said Aleksander Mortensen, Senior Vice-President and Head of TOMRA Collection Commercial. “When we started work on digital solutions for consumer engagement, we truly started from scratch.”
Digital payout also evolved. In November 2018, TOMRA became the first reverse vending provider to offer “digital vouchers” as a payout option for DRSs, which could be redeemed at participating supermarkets as in-store credit. “With our planet’s resources high on the agenda and the movement toward paperless working, we thought it was counter-intuitive that a machine that enables recycling should rely primarily on paper,” explains Aleksander Mortensen.
Digital payout options expanded to include charity donations. From 2021, registered charities could sign up for myTOMRA’s donation program, and recyclers could search for them in the myTOMRA app. So far, over 185 charities have signed up and over AUS$70,000 has been donated. Like a crowd-funding program, charities can set a goal for their myTOMRA fundraising campaign, and show their progress in the app. myTOMRA also added the ability for users to download a tax-deductable receipt.
“We wanted to offer more options to support charities, especially when we saw the community’s enthusiasm for our early fundraising appeal Bottles for the Bush, which encouraged donations for drought-ravaged rural areas,” explained Ryan Buzzell, Head of TOMRA Collection Pacific. “By having more donation partners across more touchpoints in the DRS, we could help charities reach more people and raise more awareness, with an easy call to action to donate. It generates good outcomes for the community, and gives consumers even more choice for their deposit refunds.”
In a major update in 2022, myTOMRA re-launched in April in New South Wales as a new native app, re-branded as Return and Earn, to help the government and DRS operator achieve the best outcomes for the DRS. TOMRA’s new Digital Payout API allowed seamless integration of myTOMRA functionality into a partner app.
As the official app for the entire scheme, the Return and Earn app now offers digital payout for every type of return point and has added all return points to its map function, such as depots and over-the-counter collection points. TOMRA’s consumer research found that a barrier for people to join the DRS was knowing their nearest return point, so showing all locations was key for encouraging participation.
Last month also saw the arrival of a new feature, with a “container checker”. This enables users to take a picture the barcode of a drink container from inside the Return and Earn app, to identify the container and confirm if it is eligible for the deposit return system.
Results and achievements for myTOMRA
The app is well liked among users, with the Return and Earn app one month after launch achieving a rating of 4.8 (out of 5) on the App Store. (As of February 2022, the average rating of the leading apps was 3.35.) This beat myTOMRA’s previous rating of 4.76, based on feedback from 15,000 users. There have been over 10 million consumer sessions since the original launch of myTOMRA, with over 50 million euros paid out in deposit refunds.
“We are extremely proud to see the app rated so highly by our users,” said product manager Chris Brasøygård. “Our vision is to provide an app that is relevant, engaging and effective for the average consumer when returning their containers. We build our features based on user insights and always strive to enhance the usability of our services. This rating shows us that we’re on the right track, but we’ll never stop developing the app to make our users appreciate it even more.”
The app is also widely used. Today, approximately 12% of New South Wales’ DRS refunds are paid out digitally, which is expected to increase as the app expands to the entire Return and Earn DRS. So much so that, in just four months, 200,000 users have downloaded the new Return and Earn App and transfered over from myTOMRA in New South Wales.
“At the beginning of New South Wales’ DRS, the myTOMRA app was an extension of the RVM recycling experience. Now, as the Return and Earn app, it has become the main interface for the consumer to the entire DRS,” explains Aleksander Mortensen. “We are excited to help the New South Wales Government and Return and Earn scheme coordinator Exchange for Change deliver on the best outcomes for tackling litter, driving recycling, and accelerating a circular economy.”
Today, the focus for TOMRA’s consumer app is in Australia, but the app is also available for programs in Portugal and New York. By integrating myTOMRA’s Digital Payout API, the central system administrator for Sweden’s DRS, Returpack, has launched a digital recycling experience with its “MinPant” (“MyDeposit”) app. Another implementation of the Digital Payout API is also under way with a large grocery retailer in Belgium, integrated with the store’s loyalty app.
“TOMRA truly cares about consumer choice and continuous improvement,” concluded Ryan Buzzell. “We don’t see this app as the end product, but as something that will continue to develop in response to user needs and new ways to motivate the community to take part in a deposit system.”