TOMRA Collection is a global technology company that today has over 82,000 installations of reverse vending machines for collecting empty drinks containers in more than 60 markets. A TOMRA Collection showroom opened in Belgrade recently and is a source of pride for the company
The common goal across the industry should be to remove waste from nature, which is one of the main motives for introducing the deposit system, as a proven method that enables the collection of more than 95% of packaging on the market,” explains TOMRA Collection Serbia Managing Director Bojana Milašinović.
TOMRA Collection began operating in Serbia recently. What were the main motives for entering our market and what are your expectations?
— Like many countries around the world, Serbia has a huge opportunity to reduce the amount of plastic in nature and increase beverage packaging collection and recycling rates.
We previously had a presence in the market through distributors, but by entering the Serbian market directly, we wanted to bring our company’s 50 years of experience in technology and contribute to improving the sustainability of our country. Our reverse vending machines currently collect more than 45 billion used bottles and cans annually in a closed-loop recycling process, which enables these materials to be kept in circulation and prevents extracting unnecessary virgin materials from the earth. TOMRA Collection wants to support companies in Serbia to play their part in reducing the amount of discarded and littered beverage packaging, through its international experience and innovative technology.
What are your main business activities here? What are you focused on currently?
— We are happy to have an opportunity to support companies and partners in Serbia on their journey to becoming more sustainable and to achieve their environmental objectives. We have a fully operational team working on projects and delivering customised technology solutions to our partners. We recently also opened a TOMRA Collection showroom in Belgrade! Several models of our reverse vending machines for collecting empty drinks containers are on display in the showroom, so it is an ideal place for anyone who is interested in trying our innovative technology in person and learn more about deposit return systems. It is also a great opportunity for companies to learn about the benefits that the deposit system can bring to their business and ask any questions to our team.
Have you so far participated in any pilot projects in Serbia and what are your experiences when it comes to cooperation with companies, the state and local governments?
— It is very encouraging to see increasing numbers of pilot projects and initiatives for the recycling of beverage packaging nationwide, and we are delighted that our reverse vending machines are used in several of these. Such initiatives contribute to raising awareness among consumers that empty drinks containers are a precious resource and that they can be recycled multiple times when returned in the right way. This enables us to retain the materials in a continuous loop and prevent the unnecessary extraction of additional raw materials.
We have excellent collaboration with many companies and institutions in Serbia and have implemented several projects to date. From cooperation with a large retail chain, a pilot project at the Raj Water Park in Vrnjačka Banja during the Summer, to a partnership with the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia, which has enabled its employees and visitors to handle packaging waste responsibly through the installation of a reverse vending machine on its premises. We also participated in the Circular Economy Festival in June of this year, which was a great event that engaged children in recycling. Looking ahead, we have more projects planned for the near future and we are looking forward to more people having the opportunity to try reverse vending machines.
What do you consider as your greatest success in doing business in Serbia since entering our market?
— The greatest success is undoubtedly the partnerships with our clients, which also serve as examples of good practice for the rest of the market. We have launched and participated in several projects since entering the market, which have enabled citizens to try reverse vending machines and have contributed to raising awareness that beverage packaging is valuable and shouldn’t be considered waste. We have collected a large number of drinks containers for recycling during these projects; containers that might otherwise have been discarded in nature as litter. To work together with our partners and clients to raise awareness that packaging is a valuable resource is a great success for us.
What are your future plans? Do you believe that the deposit return system will be fully functional in Serbia by 2025, as planned?
— As consumers, we use nearly 1.4 trillion drinks bottles each year and far too many of them end up littered in nature and polluting our environment, so we still have a long road ahead of us – but we’re excited about the challenges that await us.
Nordic companies can be high-quality employers, business partners and pillars of support to other companies in Serbia
In the 2022 survey of the Consumer Centre of Serbia (CEPS), we could see that 85% of consumers recognised deposit systems as a good way to encourage recycling. Speaking at the recent Ambipak conference, State Secretary Sandra Dokić of the Ministry of Environmental Protection announced plans to introduce a deposit system in Serbia in 2027, and to establish the legal framework to do so in 2024. This is now a major task for all of us, and a lot of work awaits us in preparing for that juncture. Pilot projects are among the best ways for us to learn together and to be ready for the start of the deposit system, while also collecting packaging that will end up with recyclers and not littered in nature. This is why I call on all interested companies, regardless of their core business area, to contact us at email@example.com if they want to create joint pilot projects with us and find the optimal solution to improve the sustainability of their operations.
How do you view the role and activity of Nordic companies in Serbia?
— TOMRA Collection is a proud representative of the Norwegian business community in Serbia, and I am glad to see the number of Nordic companies in our country slowly increasing. Our goal is to proliferate some elements of the Nordic business culture on the Serbian market, such as innovation, sustainability, transparency, social responsibility, equality and particularly care for the environment. I think Nordic companies can be high-quality employers, business partners and pillars of support to other companies in Serbia.
That’s why it’s important for us to take advantage of opportunities to learn through collaboration and study visits, and for us all to ensure there is as much of this as possible. For instance, Norway is among the countries that have the most developed environmental awareness in the world, and I think it is important for us to strive to emulate such an example and contribute to the exchange of positive experiences, which is why TOMRA Collection will strive to share these kinds of examples, bring good practices that can be applied to the Serbian market and inspire positive change.