Solarcube The winning sort

About Solution

The SolarCube is an autonomous reverse vending machine entirely powered by solar energy, equipped with an industrial press and a coupon distributor to reward customers per plastic bottle deposited.

It represents both a technological advance and an innovation for the field of waste collecting, as it functions solely on solar energy, and can be left unattended for customers to use independently. The industrial press located inside the machine compresses the received plastic bottles, to form easily transportable and recyclable batches.

The SolarCube is an original Tri Center product.

 Autonomous thanks to solar energy, it is dedicated to the collection of recyclable primary materials such as PET, aluminum, steel and HDPE. Fully autonomous, the SolarCube allows users to recycle their plastic bottles (recyclable PET type) in exchange for coupons, valid in the adjacent large distribution center. Powered exclusively by solar panels on its roof, it is self-sufficient. SolarCube's production itself is part of the circular economy, as it is built inside a 20-foot recycled container. He can also collect cans without any material modifications.

The primary objective of our project is to encourage customers of large supermarkets to recycle their plastic bottles, and to increase their purchasing power on a daily basis.

 

How it works: The customer introduces the product to be recycled (Pet Bottles or Cans) in the SolarCube to the indicated slot. It is then scanned by sensors, which analyze the type of plastic it is composed of, and scan the bar code and/or material sensor (for the bottles without bar code) to ensure compliance with what is recyclable. After validation, the customer can add other elements, or access a paper receipt containing a coupon (or use the loyalty card from the partner store) with a discount for the local supermarket.

 

The SolarCube’s presence near the supermarket is also an efficient communication method to reach customers about the importance of recycling daily consumed materials, as well as the impact of their purchases on the environment. By allowing them to recuperate a small profit for each bottle brought back, we encourage them to consume more responsibly.

 

A first prototype was implemented near our headquarters in Chartres, France, on the parking lot of a local commercial complex. Our goal for the future of the company is to focus on developing products in the Caribbean, starting with Martinique, as the island is plagued by plastic pollution in its water.

Every year, 3 000 tons of plastic is made by local factories in Martinique, but only 1 000 tons are recycled for the entire Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guyana zone. We hope to increase those numbers by encouraging citizens to recycle their plastic bottles.

Pending funding, we plan to install at least three SolarCubes in in the commercial areas of Dillon (Fort-de-France), Cluny (Schoelcher) and Genipa (Ducos) near local supermarkets. Being built in an Open Wing container, the controller can however be moved easily.

The SolarCube is innovative in three aspects:

Firstly, it is entirely built in a recycled container. As we scale up our activity, this will allow us to give a second life to otherwise discarded materials.

Secondly, the functional aspect of the SolarCube is entirely powered through solar energy, through solar panels located on the roof of the machine. This innovation allows us to place the machine in any location desired, without the constraint of finding an electrical input or consuming more energy than is necessary. While being self-sufficient, this also means that the SolarCube is not subject to external power outage difficulties, which makes it completely reliable.

Thirdly, the industrial press located inside the machine allows for the plastic bottles to be compressed upon reception into easily transportable batches, eliminating the need for a intermediate step of collection between receiving the bottles and delivering them to a recycling facility. Tri Center is able to send the batches directly to the recycling facility, diminishing the carbon footprint of the recycling industry in one simple move.

At a rate of 150 customers per day with an average of 25 bottles per visit, we estimate that the SolarCube will collect 3 750 bottles per day, or 3 tons of plastic per month in the first months of its launch. Ultimately, our estimates show that a single SolarCube can collect more than 6 tons of PET monthly.

 (These estimates are based on the first test returns of the Chartres SolarCube, which has not received any marketing support, and provides a € 0.02 reduction per bottle supplied. The SolarCube of Martinique should greatly exceed these expectations.)

 In Martinique, a PET recycling plant and a preform plant have recently opened, but are operating at 20% capacity due to a lack of primary material. One of our goals is to allow this plant to reach its point of equilibrium.

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