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Aldi Nord pilots Tomra innovations

Aldi Nord is testing two innovative reverse vending systems from Norwegian manufacturer Tomra. The R1 system allows customers to insert up to 100 PET bottles or cans at a time into the large opening of the unit. The retailer implemented this solution in its XXL Aldi pop-up store on the grounds of Deichbrand Festival in Cuxhaven. Afterwards, the device will be used for long-term tests in a selected store.

In its newly opened cashierless Aldi Shop & Go store in Utrecht – the Retail Optimiser reported – the discounter is testing a so-called intelligent reverse vending system. Here, the machine no longer prints out a receipt after returning the empties. Instead, the deposit amount is transferred directly to the Aldi app and deducted from the purchase amount there.

Faster in the bundle

With the Tomra R1, customers no longer need to place each individual can or PET bottle correctly aligned on the conveyor belt in the opening. They can now drop their empties directly into the large-format chute on the machine. The machine can hold up to 100 cans or PET bottles per operation.

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Processing is up to five times faster than with conventional systems. To achieve this high speed, Tomra for the first time uses compressed air for background logistics instead of the previous mechanical sorting mechanism. Validation of the empties also takes place in the background. If the machine detects a product, it does not acknowledge, it is then ejected via a separate return chute.

At Aldi Shop & Go in Utrecht, the deposit amount is automatically transferred to the app. (Photo: Aldi)
At Aldi Shop & Go in Utrecht, the deposit amount is automatically transferred to the app. (Photo: Aldi)

The R1 system only processes PET bottles and cans, not glass bottles or crates. Therefore, the manufacturer sells the unit in tandem with Tomra T9.  Both machines share the compacting unit but have their own printer that ejects the respective receipt. The new device is already popular with consumers because of its quick and easy handling. Several large German food retailers, such as Kaufland, Edeka or Rewe are already testing or implementing the R1. According to the manufacturer, there are now 20 systems installed in Germany, and 330 in 8 countries worldwide.

Paperless transaction

Empties return is a special challenge for cashierless stores. The intelligent reverse vending machine at the Aldi Shop & Go shop in Utrecht is linked to the Aldi app. Customers do not receive a receipt after returning their empties. The amount is transferred to the Aldi app and then deducted directly from the purchase amount. Allocation to the corresponding customer is done using artificial intelligence. This evaluates data from the camera systems on the sales floor, which record the movements of shoppers. Tomra has suppressed printing of the deposit receipt in the application and adapted the content on the customer display to match the new process. Integration into the store software was executed by the retailer itself.

However, a paperless operation of the reverse vending system is also on Tomra’s agenda. In a conversation with Retail Optimiser, the supplier explained that various solutions are already being worked on. In addition to transferring the data to a retailer app, the deposit receipt can also be scanned by the customer via smartphone using a QR code. A well-known Belgian retailer is currently testing this in one of its stores. For customers, this will further simplify the process of returning empties.

The video shows the process at the Tomra R1. Subtitles in English.

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Joachim Pinhammer

Joachim Pinhammer supports retail and technology companies with consulting and marketing expertise. He was Senior Analyst and Research Director Retail Technology at the London-based analyst group Planet Retail. Prior to that, he was the global marketing director for the retail division of Wincor Nixdorf (now Diebold Nixdorf). Joachim Pinhammer is a regular speaker at events organised by Messe Düsseldorf (EuroShop and EuroCIS), the EHI and further industry conferences. His reports are regularly published by trade magazines and online retail industry media.

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