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Norwegian Recycler Tracks Empty Cans and Bottles

Norsk Resirk is using an RFID solution from ACT Systems to track bags of recyclable materials, with plans to expand the technology's use to all of its processing plants, as well as at pickup sites and for truck drivers.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 12, 2012Norsk Resirk, a nonprofit Norwegian company that processes discarded plastic bottles and aluminum cans, has completed the first phase of a plan to utilize passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags and readers to improve its management of recyclable materials. Initially, the firm is reading RFID labels attached to plastic bags containing the recyclables at one of its plants. The long-term goal, however, is much more ambitious: to have the tags read by bottle- and can-collection sites at the point at which the bags are filled, interrogated again by truck drivers transporting those bags, and finally read a third time at all three of Norsk Resirk's plants. In that way, the company will be able to know when and where empty bottles and cans are picked up and delivered, in addition to who may be responsible if the recyclables fail to reach their destination. Norsk Resirk launched the system at its Alnabru plant as a pilot project, and plans to install the same technology at two other plants, located in Trondheim and Bjerkvik.

When buying bottled or canned beverages, a customer pays a deposit on each container. Upon returning the empty containers to a retailer, the consumer receives a refund of that deposit. Annually, grocery retailers and kiosks collect enough of the bottles and cans to fill 200,000 plastic bags, each of which can hold an average of 250 units. The filled bags are sent to Norsk Resirk's plants for processing, and the retailers receive reimbursement from Norsk Resirk, based on the amount of product provided. By reading RFID tags on those sacks as they arrive at the Alnabru plant, the firm saves thousands of dollars by better knowing how many bags were received, and from whom, and then paying users accordingly. The RFID-based solution is provided by ACT System Skandinavia.

A passive EPC RFID tag is attached to each bag filled with recyclable bottles or cans.

Recycling has increased via the country's deposit-refund recycling program—and, therefore, so has business at Norsk Resirk. The organization's third-party logistics provider dispatches trucks to pick up the plastic sacks after they are filled, and Norsk Resirk sought a way to gain visibility into when the processing plant received those sacks. Bar-coded labels attached to sacks could be scanned when the recyclables were received, explains Martin Ludvigsen, Norsk Resirk's logistics and operations controller, but this process was labor-intensive, and the company hoped to be able to save time.

The plant receives several hundred thousand recyclable cans and bottles daily from various deposit points (DPs)—stores or other sites where the empties are collected. Approximately 3,700 sacks filled with bottles and cans arrive from "reverse vending machines" at grocery stores, while another 2,500 sacks come from kiosks or gas stations. Bags filled with recyclables sometimes end up missing, or are delivered to the wrong plant, thereby making it difficult for Norsk Resirk to verify the amount invoiced by the DP sites.

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