By: Rudy Sanchez
Coca-Cola is using technology to encourage recycling and has created a vending machine that not only dispenses your daily Coke fix but also accepts empties and credits the customer for recycling.
Dubbed VenCycling, these machines employ leading edge tech like facial recognition and mobile payments. The vending machine is square with rounded edges and sports a shiny, red body, reminiscent of classic Coca-Cola vending machines. Two “eyes” serve as dispenser and receptacle, and AI smart LEDs anthropomorphizes the devices, giving it a mouth and eyebrows. If WALL*E and EVE had friends, this machine looks like it could one of them.
This two-way vending machine makes it easier for consumers to recycle used bottles and helps Coca-Cola accomplish its “World without Waste” goal of collecting and recycling the equivalent of every bottle produced by 2030.
“We envision a system that allows vending machines to also collect used packaging,” says Vice-President of R&D for Coca-Cola Asia Pacific Shell Huang. “It will help enhance recycling awareness among consumers and nurture recycling habits.”
Of course, returning empties when purchasing new bottles of Coke is not an entirely new idea. In Latin America, up until the 90s when PET plastic bottles started supplanting refillable glass bottles, consumers would typically exchange empty bottles for new ones, or they would pay a deposit to the retailer. One-way plastic bottles are preferred by large supermarkets and chain convenience stores, whereas smaller stores sold and accepted refillable glass bottles of soda.
Will a cute, robot-like vending machine that accepts empties and rewards consumers create a change in recycling habits? Who knows? But Coca-Cola experimenting with cutting-edge technology to promote recycling and reduce waste is as refreshing as an ice-cold Coke on a warm summer day.
Rudy Sanchez is a product marketing consultant based in Southern California. Once described by a friend as her “technology life coach,” he is a techie and avid lifelong gamer. When he’s not writing or helping clients improve their products, he’s either watching comedies on Netflix, playing the latest shooter or battle royale game or out exploring the world via Ingress and Pokémon Go.
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