Behind the scenes at BottleDrop's collection location.

Oregon Refund Center Brings AI Counting to Consumers – Resource Recycling

Behind the scenes at BottleDrop's pickup location.

Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative’s latest drop-off center uses AI to quickly count and identify bottles and other containers. | Marissa Heffernan/Resource Recycling, Inc.

Oregon’s busiest container redemption center was recently upgraded, bringing neural network technology from the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative to a consumer-facing location for the first time.

The Glisan BottleDrop Redemption Center in Portland, Oregon moved to a new, free-standing building in early November after two years of construction, leaving behind long lines at reverse vending machines (RVMs) and introducing a mini-MRF model on site powered by artificial intelligence.

Eric Chambers, director of external relations for the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (ORBC), said at the grand opening that there are “really amazing technologies at this facility, and it’s really the only place in the world where these technologies exist. ”

The OBRC operates the state’s bottle and can buyback program on behalf of beverage distributors.

Speed ​​up the process

A central technology at the Glisan site is the AI ​​system which allows customers, with the help of staff, to empty their containers onto a container belt at the front of the room and watch a live screen during that AI matters to everyone. Afterwards, they receive a voucher and can collect the money, all within minutes.

At the old location, RVMs were the only cash return option, and each person would have needed 20-30 minutes to feed their bottles into the machine. The batch counter can read the same amount in seconds.

There are still nine RVMs at the new location, but Chambers said people have started turning to the lot counter, recognizing its convenience and beginning to trust the new technology. Even when all the RVMs are in use, Chambers said, the batch counter can still keep up.

And there are also smart AI counting machines at the back of the building, to count containers returned via the green bag deposit program and automatically credit bag-related accounts via QR stickers. They use the same neural network and were previously only present in the largest processing facilities run by OBRC.

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“This is the first pure redemption center where we have this technology deployed in the back of the house,” Chambers said. “And we need this technology because this facility handles around 90 million containers a year. It is the busiest facility of this type in the world.

Kayse Jama, Oregon State Senator for District 24, said he used the old facility often and the new one is both beautiful and effective.

“I am thrilled to have this facility in my district and supporting my community,” he said, adding that he was grateful to be able to support legislative bills that provide more communities and environments. healthy.

Andrea Valderrama, Oregon State Representative for District 47, said she was thrilled to see such an investment made in an area primarily made up of people of color and immigrants.

“The savings we get from this, not only in resources but also in time, is so invaluable to this community, to my neighborhood,” she said. “We are working class, refugee and BIPOC communities, and it’s such a relief to know that we’re seen and we’re valued and that we have this amazing technology that’s brilliant and shining here in an area who have traditionally felt underserved. »

Chambers noted that there are $9 million in reimbursements paid to residents and nonprofits that use the facility, and that’s the strong partnerships with lawmakers, grocers, community partners and individuals. that make the system work.

“When you combine convenient access with really good public policy and public-private partnership, you get a lot out of it,” he said.

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