For Coca-Cola’s recycling program, the company partnered with Olyns, creator of the Olyns Cubes, an AI-powered recycling solution and retail media network. Through the partnership, these reverse vending machines collect and sort plastic, aluminum and glass packaging to be recycled and are typically placed in high traffic indoor locations where users can download Olyns' Coca-Cola branded app to gain rewards, view their recycling activity and redeem bottle deposits in applicable states.
In the video above, Jessica Carrasquilla, lead mechanical design engineer, Olyns, demonstrates how the technology works and explains its interactive features on the show floor.
The reverse vending machine accepts different types of materials like plastic, glass and aluminum that can be recycled and sorted it into collectible bins inside the machine. Once the cube is nearly full, Coca-Cola is notified and Olyn’s “network of gig workers retrieve the materials as soon as they receive a notification,” Carrasquilla elaborated.
Anton Van Zyl, director, packaging strategy, North America operating unit, The Coca-Cola Company, explained that the convenience retail channel is a significant opportunity for the company to implement recycling programs and achieve its goals.
“Very few consumers are aware of the big changes that need to happen both in product and in infrastructure in convenience retail. A lot of product use comes into convenience retail, around 50% of consumers are bringing trash and they want to drop it somewhere,” he said.
“Our latest goal is for 25% of product volume goes into reusable packaging through recycling in convenience retail and reusing those recycled packages,” Van Zyl added.
Recycling programs require infrastructure from both municipalities and companies around collection, sorting and processing, which are costly. Using AI technology to administer all three steps allows for Coca-Cola to partner with Olyns to implement more machines across the country and focus on recycling and reusability to meet its goals.
“For convenience retail, things like recycled PET bottles that we have, we want to make sure that this is pervasive, that we do have this across the country, we will have it all trademarked by the end of 2024. We will have 100% recycled bottles in our 20 ounce package,” he elaborated.
[*Editor's Note 10/14/23: This article and headline have been edited to clarify the partnership between Coca-Cola and Olyns. Olyns owns and manufactures the Cube; similarly the company owns the app which is modified with Coca-Cola's branding.]