Reverse Vending

By KC Orcutt, UAS

This semester, University Auxiliary Services launched use of its recently installed reverse vending machine . The reverse vending machine will accept nearly all plastic bottles and aluminum cans for the deposit, given that the 5 cent New York State bottle tax and barcode is readable on the product.

Tomra, the machine’s provider, is the leading supplier of advanced recycling solutions throughout nearly 50 countries.  The company was founded in 1972 in Asker, Norway and is committed to helping aid the world’s recycling effort and its machines have begun to sprout up throughout college campuses. The machine is equally efficient as it is easy to use.  Customers simply place their empty cans and bottles into the machine, in standard recycling procedure, and once finished, a receipt will print out with a barcode that is redeemable for cash or for use as a part of their purchase at the Outtakes store.

“If Coca-Cola comes out with a new beverage, for example, Chartwells has the ability to request Tomra to add the new product to be accepted in the Chartwells system,” explained Emily Lamontagne, the Quality Assurance Associate at UAS.  “We chose to use Outtakes as our deposit slip location because it has the widest available open hours for students.”

Resembling a modern recycling machine visually, such as the ones found in Price Chopper, the machine utilizes the minimal space that it occupies by accepting, sorting and compacting the recyclable material as a ‘one-stop’ recycling center.  The reverse vending machine can accept up to 45 containers per minute and has a total capacity of 900 cans and 200 plastic containers, and requires no further special electrical requirement to run.

“The machine has an odometer function, similar to that in a car,” said Lamontagne. “It keeps track of the deposited bottles and cans collectively in its lifetime."

"We will be working with Chartwells to do weekly reads of the information," said Mary Ellen Mallia, the Director of Environmental Sustainability.  "We will include the Tomra deposits into RecycleMania.  We have a goal of recycling 300,000 lbs of material, and any returnables will help us get to our goal.” The RecycleMania program, a national competition between universities and colleges for recycling, will begin on January 23rd and end on April 2nd.  Weekly updates and the University's standing is available online at:

"We’re excited to offer another on-site option for students," said Mallia. "Hopefully the accessibility of the machine will encourage students to recycle on campus.  It will help make it easier if students don’t have to worry about off-campus travel."

The process of picking up and transporting recyclable materials to sorting and processing facilities also is made easier by Tomra, and helps to reduce the cost of maintenance for curbside recycling, as maintained by Chartwells staff.  The machine’s self-containing attributes allow for optimal cleanliness and effectiveness, and will be emptied and cleaned daily by a designated Chartwells employee.

The reverse vending machine is located across from SEFCU, centrally located in the Campus Center and neighboring the Outtakes store.  There are recycling receptacles set up in this area as well, for glass and other non-deposit recyclable materials not accepted by the machine, such as Glacéau vitamin water.

“The major focus of the efforts of those of us working in the Office of Environmental Sustainability is to create an environment in which it is easy to be "green". The steps we have taken in the past two and a half years since I was an incoming freshman are incredible and this community of sustainability is growing,” said Jeremy Grunstra, a Junior, double-majoring in history and sociology. “The use of reverse vending machines is an excellent step forward in creating a community of sustainability on our campus.” Grunstra works in the Office of Environmental Sustainability and is also a chairman on the University's Student Sustainability Council.