Tomra gets the circular economy sorted

Tomra recycling

A leader in the resource recovery and recycling sector, TOMRA shows commitment to advance material circularity in Australia.

TOMRA is no stranger to Australian waste management. Decades ago, it started its activities with the introduction of Container Deposit Schemes (CDS) to maximise beverage container collection for recycling before it entered the market as a provider of sensor-based sorting solutions for recycling industries.

Founded in 1972 by brothers Petter and Tore Planke from Asker in Norway, who invented the world’s first automated reverse vending machine, TOMRA has also pioneered the use of sensor-based optical sorting technology with its business stream TOMRA Recycling. Today, more than 9000 machines are installed across more than 100 countries. 

TOMRA’s sorting systems are designed to recover secondary materials from waste and metal streams to create pure mono materials that can be further processed and turned into high-quality recyclates. 

A range of sensor-based technology makes it possible to identify, and sort recyclable material based on type, colour, transparency, shape, density, surface, metal signal and other characteristics. Thanks to the machine’s capabilities, recyclers and sorting plant operators can maximise yield while minimising primary material use and keeping valuable resources in a closed loop for as long as possible.

To date, TOMRA Recycling has 160 optical sorters installed in Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) and plastic recycling facilities across Australia. 

With the introduction of the National Waste Action Plan in 2019, the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020, and other policies, the Australian recycling industry has made considerable progress. In addition, legislation and government funds support the establishment of the necessary infrastructure to further advance the industry, enabling it to meet ambitious waste management and recycling targets. 

Tomra  recycling
Carina Arita, Sales Manager for TOMRA Recycling.

To support this growth and engage with end customers, Carina Arita, Sales Manager for TOMRA Recycling, has taken charge of the development of new projects in collaboration with local stakeholders. 

Based in the company’s Sydney office, Carina is in contact with TOMRA’s local service team that consists of specialised engineers. Paired with a comprehensive stock of spare parts, TOMRA is well-equipped to best serve its customers and the local market. 

Carina says that with 50 years’ experience in circular waste management, TOMRA has optimised its technologies and extended its portfolio to solve sorting challenges across numerous applications. 

For instance, the company’s AUTOSORT plays a key role in Australia’s largest PET (polyethylene terephthalate) recycling plant that opened in Albury-Wodonga in 2022. Thanks to the good results, the company is keen to broaden its reach nationally. 

Carina says the Circular Plastics Australia (CPA) recycling plant, situated in Albury-Wodonga, incorporates some of TOMRA’s most advanced technology and helps establish a domestic circular economy. 

According to CPA, the amount of locally sourced and recycled PET in Australia has increased by two thirds since the start of its operation. While it started with recycling about 30,000 tonnes, the plant now recycles more than 50,000 tonnes annually. Additionally, several other AUTOSORTs are being installed in two other CPA plastic recycling facilities in the Melbourne area.

Carina says that with a presence in more than 100 countries worldwide, TOMRA has multiple best-practice projects and successes. 

As all material streams differ in composition, TOMRA offers various technologies that adapt to the specific mix of material, the local reality, and requirements. 

tomra recycling
AUTOSORT and its SHARP EYE technology makes it possible to differentiate between PET bottles and PET trays with high accuracy

“The optical sorting machines are the eyes and the brain of the sorting process,” she says. “The better the pre-treatment, the better the sorting performance. To support our customers in realising the best results, TOMRA draws on its global and local expertise to offer consultancy to optimise plant design and overall material treatment.

“Aiming to support Australia in realising a more circular material treatment, TOMRA closely observes the local market, turning challenges into opportunities wherever feasible. 

“For example, it offers optional technologies for its AUTOSORT, such as Deep LAIser that enables the identification of objects that are invisible to Near-infrared (NIR) technology. Moreover, it can detect the shape of different objects, thereby increasing sorting accuracy. Our SHARP EYE technology makes it possible to differentiate between PET bottles and PET trays with high accuracy, which for most technology still poses a challenge.”

TOMRA’s vision is to lead the resource revolution by transforming how the world’s resources are obtained, used, and reused. 

Carina says it is TOMRA’s belief that businesses have the power and responsibility to help manage resources – today and tomorrow. Therefore, one of TOMRA’s commitments is to recycle 40 per cent of post-consumer plastic packaging worldwide and 30 per cent of those in closed loop, by 2030.

“That commitment,” says Carina, “can only be achieved with co-creation, close market collaboration, sharing of knowledge and new partnerships for circularity.  

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