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Finnish Recycling Firm Uses RFID to Create an Efficient and Profitable Business

Lassila & Tikanoja tracks tagged plastic containers used to transport glass bottles from nearly 5,000 collection points to eight waste-processing centers.
By Bob Violino
Oct 19, 2014

Lassila & Tikanoja (L&T) provides a variety of services including waste management and recycling, property and sewer maintenance, and environmental construction. The company, based in Helsinki, Finland, has operations in Finland, Sweden and Russia, and employs 8,000 people. Its corporate mission is to help customers achieve their environmental targets, by increasing waste recycling and maintaining properties in a more energy-efficient way.

In 2012, L&T was selected to be the glass waste processing service provider for Suomen Palautuspakkaus Oy (PALPA), a nonprofit organization owned by the retail trade and breweries. PALPA develops deposit-based systems for beverage containers in Finland. The deposit system is a voluntary recycling arrangement that brewers and importers can join as an alternative to a beverage packaging tax system.

At L&T's largest waste-processing center, the company installed three Vilant Smart Gates to track containers of recycled glass bottles. At the center, the bottles are received and washed, and empty containers are sent back to delivery terminals.
That same year, PALPA's responsibility in recycling was significantly expanded by new regulations in Finland that enabled consumers to return all one­way glass bottles to any collection point already existing for cans and bottles. (One-way glass bottles are not refilled; they go directly to recycling.) This change increased the number of one-way glass bottles collection points from 350 to nearly 5,000 within the retail sales network.

As a result, the number of plastic containers used to transport glass bottles from collection points to waste-processing centers more than doubled. As part of its agreement with PALPA, L&T was responsible for supplying the plastic containers—and for developing a system to track them.

L&T deployed an RFID solution to meet the tracking requirement. In addition to monitoring the plastic containers at the waste-processing center, the RFID system provides an effective way to collect data about recycled glass material volume. Based on this information, L&T created a profitable business model.

Building a System
After evaluating RFID system providers, L&T selected Vilant, a Finnish company that provides complete RFID solutions, from system design, to hardware and software selection and implementation. The two companies conducted a proof-of-concept test, says Jarmo Sallinen, Vilant's project manager. As part of the trial, the team tested the tags and readers at a waste-processing center, to help with final product selection. In particular, they wanted to ensure the tags were durable in a harsh environment.

L&T deployed the RFID system in several phases. The first part of the project was completed in roughly four months in the first half of 2012. During this phase, the company RFID-tagged approximately 25,000 containers and deployed readers at all locations, and the client and server software was implemented and tested as well.

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