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Title:
SYSTEM FOR RECYCLING EMPTY CONTAINERS FOR CONTAINING LIQUIDS OR BEVERAGES AND METHOD FOR IMPLEMENTING THE SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2022/096591
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
System for recycling empty containers for containing beverages, comprising one server, one reverse vending machine (RVM) available to registered users, a software application loaded on a mobile telephone of the users. The RVM is provided with optical means for reading container information recorded on the containers, a computer for processing QR code information, a display for displaying a compilation of information on deposited empty containers in the form of QR code readable on mobile telephones. The software application is configured to read the text, or QR code by means of optical readers and transmit them to the server. The server processes all data and information received so as to be read by the respective registered user associated with that account and the economic operators registered in the recycling system.so that a second selection of data in every account can be read by economic operators for products and/or services made available registered in the system.

Inventors:
ZOPPAS MATTEO (IT)
SIGLER LAURENT (FR)
GUAZZELLI LORENZO (IT)
NECCHI RICCARDO (IT)
Application Number:
PCT/EP2021/080668
Publication Date:
May 12, 2022
Filing Date:
November 04, 2021
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
SIPA PROGETTAZIONE AUTOMAZ (IT)
International Classes:
G07F7/06; G06Q30/02
Domestic Patent References:
WO2020183913A12020-09-17
WO2020123660A12020-06-18
Foreign References:
US20110055059A12011-03-03
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CINQUANTINI, Bruno et al. (IT)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1 . A system for recycling empty containers for containing liquids, in particular for beverages, comprising at least one server, at least one reverse vending machine located remotely from the server and available to registered users, a software application loaded on a mobile telephone of at least one registered user, wherein the reverse vending machine has

- optical and/or radio means for reading container information recorded on first information storage means placed on the containers,

- computer means for processing container information related to containers returned to the reverse vending machine, and

- display means for displaying a compilation of information on deposited empty containers delivered in the reverse vending machine during a container return session, the compilation being displayed in the form of an optically readable text, barcode or QR code and/or being transformed into a radio message which is receivable by radio means on the mobile telephone, wherein the software application is configured to read the text, barcode or QR code and/or the radio message by means of optical reading means or radio receiving means incorporated in said mobile telephone and transmit them to said at least one server, wherein the at least one server is configured to

- assign a reference ID to make every user a registered user and assign a respective account to every registered user before starting a container return session for the first time, - receive, by means of the software application loaded on the mobile telephone, compilations containing information on all returned empty containers inserted into the reverse vending machine by a registered user during a container return session and the reference ID of the registered user, and associate said information with the account of the registered user,

- process all data and information received in said account so that a first selection of data in every account can be read by the respective registered user associated with that account and so that a second selection of data in every account can be read by economic operators registered in the system.

2. The system according to claim 1 , wherein the containers are PET bottles.

3. The system according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said first information storage means comprises one or more QR codes printed on the containers.

4. The system according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the software application is configured to access the account of the registered user associated therewith for receiving information on the credit balance available to the registered user.

5. The system according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the economic operators registered in the system are beverage distributors and/or product makers and/or brand owners and/or bottlers.

6. The system according to claim 5, wherein the at least one server is configured to manage a virtual marketplace where products and services provided by the economic operators registered in the system are available to registered users for purchases, in exchange for the available credit on the respective account.

7. A method for recycling empty containers for containing liquids, in particular beverages, implemented by the system according to any one of claims 1 to 6, wherein at least one reverse vending machine, a software application loaded on a mobile telephone of a registered user, and at least one server are provided, the method comprising the following steps: a) starting a deposit session by depositing one or more empty containers in the reverse vending machine, b) signaling, to the reverse vending machine, that the last empty container of the deposit session has been deposited, c) processing, by means of the computer installed in the reverse vending machine, data related to the deposited empty containers, d) displaying a compilation of information on all deposited empty containers on the display means of the reverse vending machine, the compilation being displayed in the form of an optically readable text, barcode or QR code and/or being transformed into a radio message which is receivable by radio means on the mobile telephone; e) reading the compiled information by means of an optical QR code reader or by means of a radio message receiver installed on the registered user’s mobile telephone, f) transmitting the compilation and a reference associated with the registered user, in particular the telephone number of the mobile telephone, to the at least one server by means of the mobile telephone information, g) processing, in the at least one server, information and data sent by means of the software application on the mobile telephone of the registered user, h) updating the respective account of the registered user and crediting a monetary amount corresponding to a predetermined value of the empty containers delivered

16 during the return session in the reverse vending machine.

8. The method according to claim 7, wherein before participating in the recycling system of claim 1 , every consumer downloads the software application on a mobile telephone and performs a registration to the recycling system before performing a return of containers in the reverse vending machine for the first time, and the at least one server creates an account and a user ID associated with the user who becomes a registered user.

9. The method according to claim 8, wherein the registered user is allowed to spend the available credit on the respective account for purchasing products and/or services made available by economic operators registered in the recycling system.

17

Description:
SYSTEM FOR RECYCLING EMPTY CONTAINERS FOR CONTAINING LIQUIDS

OR BEVERAGES AND METHOD FOR IMPLEMENTING THE SYSTEM

Field of the invention

The invention relates to a system for recycling empty containers made of plastic or metal, for containing liquids, preferably beverages.

Background art

In some European States, the recycling of disposable plastic bottles and metal cans typically is as follows. The consumer pays the container deposit, such as a fee, to the retailer when buying a beverage. When the consumer returns the empty beverage container in a reverse vending machine (RVM), the deposit is refunded in various manners. If the consumer does not return the container for recycling and disposes of the container as waste, the deposit is paid by the retail store to the State to cover the costs of public waste collection.

As used herein, the term “distributor” globally refers to a product maker or brand owner (e.g., the company producing the beverage) or to a bottler or entity which distributes products from a product maker to retailers.

RVMs generally are automated machines accepting used beverage containers and return container deposits in the form of a receipt to be redeemed at the retail store where the RVM is located. RVMs are generally controlled by an electronic circuit which is isolated from any network and do not communicate remotely any information to a central system or server.

In use, the user places the empty beverage container into a receiving aperture of the reverse vending machine. The reverse vending machine automatically identifies the beverage container, such as by scanning the container's bar or QR code. Eligible containers are accepted, and the user is paid back. Accepted containers are typically crushed or broken within the RVM to reduce their size and are then transported to the recycling plant.

The recycling industry has become increasingly active over time, being pushed more and more each year by government policies to promote environmental protection. Fueled by rising energy costs and decreasing natural resources, a great amount of time, money, and research has been devoted to studying the recycling processes, techniques, and methods. However, in order to install and conduct these recycling operations, either the companies or people conducting these operations rely on a constant inflow of recyclable materials from environmentally conscious consumers.

In several States, a large amount of money is currently being spent on creating programs and facilities to encourage consumers to recycle more recyclable material and manufacture new products having a higher content of recycled material. Investments are made by container producing companies to develop new machines which use recycled material, in particular plastics such as PET, but the available PET collected from the waste collection cycle is insufficient to cover the productivity of such high-performance machines. Persuasion programs and facilities use simple, morally persuasive techniques to get consumers to recycle, however they do not motivate consumers satisfactorily to increase their efforts to enhance recycling habits.

One reason is that most persuasion programs fail to provide consumers with sufficient incentives to recycle recyclable materials properly.

Therefore, a large amount of valuable recyclable material, some of which is difficult or impossible to regenerate, such as aluminum, glass, and polymer material, is still dumped in landfills, costing taxpayers’ money and missing out the opportunity to save energy by recycling.

Some distribution companies have thus set the primary goal of increasing the availability of recycled plastics.

A mobile recycling validation system is known from W02020/123660A1 , which includes a mobile recycling application operating on a user’s mobile device, at least one remote server from the mobile device, where the mobile recycling application may receive image data related to an image captured by a camera of the mobile device, identify a unique code printed on a recyclable item depicted in the image, determine unique code data related to the unique code, determine recycling deposit confirmation data, and send the unique code data and the recycling deposit confirmation data to the server. The server may receive the unique code data and the recycling deposit confirmation data, determine whether the unique code is valid, determine whether the recycling deposit confirmation data indicates that the recyclable item has been deposited in the recycling stream, and send validation data to the mobile recycling application, which may credit an incentive credit a user’s account. This system does not sufficiently incentivize consumers to recycle empty containers and does not take advantage of the large investments made for installing reverse vending machine in several European countries.

Therefore, it is a major objective to structure a recycling system which creates incentives for consumers to step up efforts to recycle more than it is currently done in many countries.

Brief description of the invention

It is thus an object of the present invention to provide a system for incentivizing beverage container recycling to achieve higher productivity objectives, in particular for the recycling of plastics such as PET. This object is achieved by a system for recycling empty containers for containing liquids, in particular beverages, comprising at least one server, at least one reverse vending machine located remotely from the server and available to registered users, a software application loaded on a mobile telephone of at least one registered user, where the reverse vending machine has

- optical and/or radio means for reading container information recorded on first information storage means placed on the containers,

- computer means for processing container information related to containers returned to the reverse vending machine, and

- display means for displaying compilations of information on deposited empty containers delivered in the reverse vending machine during a container return session, the compilation being displayed in the form of an optically readable text, barcode or QR code or of a radio message which is receivable by radio means on the mobile telephone, where the software application is configured to read the QR code and/or message by means of optical reading means or radio receiving means incorporated in said mobile telephone and transmit them to said at least one server, where the at least one server is configured to

- assign a reference ID to make every user a registered user and assign a respective account to every registered user before starting a container return session for the first time,

- receive, by means of the software application loaded on the mobile telephone, compilations containing information on all returned empty containers inserted into the reverse vending machine by a registered user during a container return session and the reference ID of the registered user, and associate said information with the account of the registered user, - process all data and information received in said account so that a first selection of data in every account can be read by the respective registered user associated with that account and so that a second selection of data in every account can be read by economic operators registered in the system.

In another aspect of the invention, the object of the invention is achieved by a method for recycling containers having the features of claim 7.

The system of the invention addresses the lack of availability of recycled PET (also referred to as rPET in this description) for beverage bottles which have a strong appeal on environmentally conscious consumers and incentivize more consumers to recycle a larger amount of single-use disposable bottles, which are the largest part of the production of PET products.

The system can also be integrated without major technical difficulties into the household recycling schemes of those Countries which are forerunners in their environmental policies and already have large amounts of RVMs.

The integration of the system of this invention into existing household recycling schemes can help to spread globally a new approach of digitalizing how deposits paid for the purchase of bottles are credited back to consumers and allow for a more active participation of distributors in the system, thus making it more attractive to consumers and resulting in a greater commitment to use the system.

The present invention relates to a system for organizing the recycling of beverage containers made of recyclable materials, in particular of PET bottles, but non exclusively, and the system of the invention can utilize every type of recyclable containers and materials.

Brief description of the drawings

Further features and advantages of the invention will become more apparent in light of the detailed description of a preferred, but non-exclusive embodiment of a system for recycling empty containers disclosed by way of non-limiting example, with the aid of the following drawings, in which: figure 1 shows a diagram of the data flow in the recycling system according to the invention, figure 2 shows an advantageous diagram of how the financial transactions are performed on the digital marketplace of the recycling system according to the invention.

Detailed description of preferred embodiments of the invention

The system of the invention comprises a network of reverse vending machines (RVMs), consumers or users’ mobile telephones, a software application loaded on the mobile telephone, a telecommunication network, a digital marketplace implemented via the Internet, containers specifically designed for the recycling system of the invention.

The RVMs are equipped with at least one optical reading device capable of reading barcodes, QR codes, or a specific reading device for reading electronic tags, digital watermarks, etc., depending on the means employed to store the information on the bottles.

The RVMs also have at least one display of known type used for displaying information to the users or operators when they need to perform maintenance on the RVM. They are designed so that the information displayed on the display screen is a code, such as a barcode, a QR code or the like, and that the user’s smartphone, by means of an appropriate software application loaded on the smartphone, can “read” the amount of the deposit fee and/or any other information considered necessary.

The information displayed on the RVM display screen is at least the “deposit fee” code, bottle data and consumer data, such the mobile telephone number.

In a preferred embodiment, the RVMs can also comprise a telecommunication device, which operates via network cable or via wireless communication, e.g. connection to a LAN or WAN, and capable of communicating with the server of a platform database in a well-known manner for sending the same information read by the user’s mobile telephone or only a part thereof or any additional information considered necessary.

In this description, reference is made for brevity to bottles, however it is understood that instead of, or in combination with, bottles, any other appropriate container for beverages or other liquids can be used, if it is designed to belong to the recycling system.

The bottles especially designed to work with the recycling system of the invention must have a support, such as a barcode, for containing relevant information to identify them automatically by means of the optical reader of the RVMs. Other types of ID tags for storing information are also possible, such as QR codes or RFID tags, and they can be selected as a function of the amount of data to be stored and of the cost of the identification system. Tags or codes are preferably printed or fixed on a label attached to the bottle in a manner well known in the art.

If specific tags are chosen to be fixed to the bottle, appropriate reading systems are installed on the RVMs for reading the information on the bottle.

The system of the invention provides for the use of mobile telephones belonging to the consumer, which have a software application loaded thereon configured to read the information displayed on the RVM display screen and transfer the relevant data to a platform database using the normal data transmission capabilities of the mobile telephone network.

In another preferred embodiment of the system according to the invention the mobile telephone can use a wireless network instead of, or in combination with, the data transmission capability of the mobile telephone network.

In organizing the transmission of data read from the RVMs display, the software application is arranged so as to ensure that personal data privacy and security are protected according to laws, bylaws and regulations of the countries where the system is used.

The recycling system according to the invention also provides for a database stored on a server of the platform which forms part of the digital marketplace which is designed to sort, structure and organize data received from the RVMs and process it to produce valuable data for distributors.

The information to be transferred to the server of the digital marketplace by means of the software application on the mobile telephone is at least the bottle data and the consumer data, e.g. the mobile number, however any other information of interest for the distributors can be transmitted.

In a specific embodiment of the system of the invention, the RVMs can work ‘offline’ and the information collected when consumers return empty bottles could be sent in batches to the digital platform server at a delayed time and the information could be sent to the consumer’s mobile telephone at a later time. In such cases, the interaction of the consumer with the digital marketplace, e.g. reading the credit on the consumer’s account and any other information related to the consumers’ account, could occur not simultaneously with the return of the empty bottles and made available to the consumer and/or distributors and/or system with some delay, depending on the system design.

Known means are provided for the transmission of data from the platform database to the distributors, such as cryptography, firewalls, etc., in order to ensure privacy and data transfer security, especially for consumers personal data.

The digital marketplace is an online marketplace where service information is provided by multiple third parties, such as distributors. In the case of the recycling system of the invention, the focus is preferably on services and nothing is sold online to the consumer or user, but only a service is provided.

In order to interact with the system of the invention, the user must have access to the marketplace and therefore must register, as already described herein, providing the personal information required. This can be made by means of the dedicated software application loaded on the smartphone, but it can also be made by using an Internet site of the system.

Once registered, the consumer can access the marketplace platform using his/her personal login credentials. Access to the platform can take place via the Internet site or the dedicated software application on the mobile telephone.

The user can access his/her personal area, where he/she finds the account information and the history of the activities performed, such as the number and type of containers delivered, the history and position of deliveries, the bonuses received, and the current status of credits, e.g. a score.

Based on the type and amount of containers delivered, the user receives a number of credits, defined by the system, which are converted into cash prizes and/or even into prize items wither periodically or upon reaching pre-established thresholds.

The information on the containers delivered during a return operation is transferred by reading the QR code issued by the RVMs at the end of the container return, using the dedicated software application on the mobile phone, which sends the information to the user's personal area, thus updating the number of credits and the event history.

Within the marketplace, the user will also have access to offers and promotions from distributors, possibly customized according to the user’s profile, news, forums, initiatives, games, and activities which can also contribute to increasing the user’s score.

In organizing the digital marketplace, the system manager, such as a specific distribution company, verifies the data transfer accuracy and the type, selection, and amount of data that the distributors will receive, i.e. some distributors receive consumer data of those consumers buying selected brands, but also other type of aggregated data can be distributed.

Since in the digital marketplace payments are organized, the payment security is ensured by using well-known money transfer systems used in the financial world, either already existing or newly arranged to the purposes of the system.

The recycling system of the invention operates as follows.

The initial step for a consumer or user who wants to participate in the recycling system according to the invention is to download a dedicated software application for the recycling system on his/her mobile telephone, and to register to the system by providing a list of personal data such as name, surname, mobile telephone number, and any other information considered necessary for the registration.

When a user returns one or more empty bottles to an RVM belonging to the circuit of the recycling system of the invention, the bottles are inserted into the RVM and the QR code placed on the bottle, or any other ID tag provided in the system, is read by the optical reading device or by the appropriate sensors of the RVMs, respectively. The code on the bottle preferably, but not exclusively, contains information such as the brand name, the bottle size, the content type, e.g. sparkling or still water, and possibly the special “brand recycling fee” which should be applied, which information can be managed however in the digital platform directly, etc.

When all bottles are inserted into the RVM, the internal microprocessor thereof processes the information and displays a QR code on the display screen of the RVM, which is read by the QR reader of the user’s smartphone and the software application on the mobile telephone.

In this operation, the data captured by the RVM are for example the consumer’s mobile number and all bottle data contained in the QR code, the amount of bottles, and possibly, if necessary, the monetary value which will be credited on the consumer account associated with the mobile telephone number.

The data associated with the deposit operation are transferred to the database on the digital marketplace server by means of the software application of the mobile telephone and to the platform server via the telecommunication channels used by the mobile telephone: telephone or data transfer means, for example, as well as any other wireless telecommunication system, LAN, WAN, etc., available in the location where the RVM is placed.

At least the following data are preferably transferred from the mobile telephone to the server, but not exclusively: bottle brand, bottle size, application type, RVM location, consumer’s mobile telephone number, number of recycled bottles, and the server will specifically differentiate the information according to the brands participating in the recycling system.

The data transferred from the platform database to the distributors consists of aggregated data, such as data referring to every bottle linked to the user’s account, i.e. to the user’s mobile number, so that each distributor can find every mobile number, i.e. every consumer, how many bottles have been brought back to the RVMs, when, where, the type of beverage, etc. The distributors can thus understand each consumer’s consumption habits.

Since the added value of the information sent to the distributors is high because the distributors can enhance consumer’s engagement towards specific beverage brands, the distributors can perform “targeted/focused” marketing actions, and in return, the distributor pays a “brand or premium recycling fee” to the consumer for each bottle that the consumer has recycled, and the payments will be processed through the digital platform and credited to the users’ accounts in accordance with predetermined agreed prices between the digital marketplace managers and the distributors.

For example, the system of the invention allows consumers to play games and gain rewards through discounts on next purchases or through gifts or payback systems.

The recycling system also provides data exchange operations between distributors and consumers, through which promotional messages and offers are sent to consumers and messages for seeking larger consumer’s engagement, e.g. by submitting surveys. This can be made by exchanging data through text messages, videos, by sending promotional codes on smartphones, etc. Other services are also possible. On the users’ side, if so desired, they can communicate and actively engage with the distributors by providing answers to surveys, participating in games, answering to text messages, and downloading various digital contents, such as videos, OR codes, etc. Using the recycling system of the invention can lead to valuable results. According to the publication “PETCore data” dated December 2017, 1 ,750,000 tons of PET bottles are recycled yearly in Western Europe. Considering an average weight of 40g for each bottle, this results in about 40 billion bottles/year going through the mechanical recycling systems. Conservatively assuming that an additional 0,1% of those 40 billion bottles would be deposited via the recycling system of the invention, it would mean an increase of 40 million bottles per year of available recycled material.