Conventional wisdom teaches us one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Something else it can be is fuel for a reverse vending machine’s recycling capabilities. If that reverse vending machine happens to be high-tech like the ones Aco Recycling makes, the volume of trash could also correspond to a certain kind of reward for the person providing it. So the next time you call something “absolute garbage,” make sure you give it the respect it deserves (unless you were talking about the new Bourne Movie).
Aco Recycling founder Nihat Kuruüzüm tells me he was spurred by the impotent rhetoric constantly encountered around key matters of environmental significance. “It all started with environmental issues that I have seen around me; it’s a subject everybody talks but no one is taking any spectacular action to change it,” he says. So he established Aco Recycling, a startup that develops products that can act on addressing our most pressing environmental needs.
Their first product is the aforementioned R1 smart reverse vending machine. The device studies any object you attempt to insert into it using a smart camera, CCD sensors, and equipment capable of identifying the material and gauging weight. It then cross-references the data it collects against a database to ascertain if the object is recyclable. If so, it is accepted and stored in a particular compartment depending on the material. The machine provides an easy way for municipalities to offload some of the work that goes into separating trash at the source and recycling it.
If all that wasn’t enough, there is a built-in rewards system to incentivize using the reverse vending machine. “The nature of the reward is totally up to the client,” Kuruüzüm explains. The R1 offers ticket printing, a magnetic card reader, and cashback as the primary models for rewards. Kuruüzüm tells me that in his home country of Turkey, municipalities offer free transportation credits using the magnetic card reader support that the R1 has. Certain supermarkets use its ticket printing capabilities to print vouchers.
Kuruüzüm reveals the startup has started establishing its sales network across countries by connecting with companies that already deal with high-tech environmental products. “So far we have 7 distributors around the world, and we are looking to expand by cooperating with companies that suit our portfolio perfectly,” he says. Locally, they take a more traditional marketing approach by inviting potential clients to their offices and putting on a show with their smart devices.
Aco Recycling has a couple other products in the pipeline. The first is the Aco Smart Wastee, a sensor device used to monitor the level of waste in garbage bins. It’s meant to be used by municipalities to optimize routes during waste collection as well as to improve the management of waste containers. The other product is a smart parking system called Parksens, which keeps track of the available spots in parking lots.
On establishing a startup out of Turkey, Kuruüzüm says his experience has been overwhelmingly positive. The founder states that is thanks primarily to quick registration processes, affordable prices, and a university system that support the startup ecosystem. “Municipalities are open to new solutions, which helps create great momentum for startups. Private companies also show interest in adopting innovative solutions.”
In the coming year, Kuruüzüm hopes to expand the company’s distributor network. “North America and Asia Pacific are our main target markets, and in 2017 we aim to get eight more distributors across regions,” he says. Hunting for funding, though, is not on the agenda. “Funding is not something that we are interested in so far; we believe that we have reached a level that allows us to continue operations without external financial contribution.”