This is the last of several postings about inventions new to me that were noticed on my recent trip to the USA.
I was outside a Vermont supermarket when a couple of youths turned up in a pickup with a dozen cardboard boxes stuffed with bottles (mostly beer) and cans. They patiently, and without a word to each other, began to insert the bottles and cans into a single hole in a machine about the size of a large refrigerator. This clearly was sorting cans, glass bottles and plastic into those three categories. Having nothing better to do, I watched for five minutes until the inevitable jam occurred.
They politely asked one of the staff to help. She unlocked a large door which revealed that the compartments were full: "just what I didn't want to see", was her resigned comment. I noticed that there was complicated machinery to do with the sorting.
After they had gone I wandered over to the machine (you can tell there wasn't much doing in sleepy Poultney) and noticed that it was a Tomra┬« 62 model. No patent number given that I could tell.
Tomra Systems is a Norwegian company and their Method and device for identification of a type of material in an object and ulitization thereof is the sort of thing we are talking about. A detector station irradiates articles with infrared rays. As the different objects have different spectral characteristics it can tell which is which in order to sort them. This is the main drawing.
I must admit I wonder if it is really worth the effort: couldn't people just put the things separately into large skips which could be hoisted on vehicles in the first place ? That is what occurs in London. It must also be awkward unlocking and emptying the machines for a smallish amount of material.
Tomra Systems (motto: helping the world recycle) has some 30 patent specifications for methods of handling objects, or reverse vending technology as they like to say.