Thursday, October 13, 2011

VenChinX: A Reverse Vending Machine

I remember my thesis back in college, it's so fitting that my group mates and I chose (to enhance) a thesis that is environment friendly. Our thesis was, in concept, a reverse vending machine. You feed it an aluminum can, it gives you prepaid load for your mobile phone.

Segregate Effectively

Reverse vending machines paves the way for effective segregation. How? The promise of reward makes people do the extra effort of segregating their trash. Imagine if you're walking around the mall, drinking your soda from a can, once you're finished with it, would you just toss it in the bin or head towards the nearest reverse vending machine knowing that in doing so would be helping the environment AND will give you a reward after doing so?

Saving Energy

The segregation and recycling of aluminum cans do save a lot of energy - and apparently, nature too, by reducing the quantities of ore to be mined. Quoting from my thesis documentation (Chapter 1):
In order to create an aluminum can, companies need to mine and smelt bauxite ore. The smelting of bauxite ore results into molten aluminum, which is then casted into ingots. The ingots are then rolled into sheets and from the sheets; parts of the aluminum can are cut. The recycling of aluminum cans lessens the consumption of the natural resources needed to produce them and saves 95 percent of the energy needed to produce aluminum from bauxite ore
Let me reiterate that, saves 95 percent of the energy. WOW!

Why Electronic Load?

Why did we choose electronic load instead of just plain cash? Easy.
  1. We don't need to put money in the machine, which would require a tighter security for it
  2. Load is rampantly used in the Philippines
  3. It's easier to detect if the machine is low on load
  4. It's easier to reload the machine with electronic load (it can be automated) rather than putting money in the machine.
Again, quoting fro my thesis documentation (chapter 1)
Since electronic loading has become prevalent in the Philippines, turning it to compensation for recycling aluminum cans will help increase the recognition and acceptance and eventually, usage of the reverse vending machine in the Philippines.

How the Reverse Vending Machine Works

Our machine requires you to register or to log in using your mobile number as your credential. It has a monitor telling you what to do, and a numpad for interacting with the machine. When you log in or register, you have 3 options, either to recycle a can, check your points or to send load to your phone.

Let's say you want to recycle a can, it will prompt you to put the can inside the machine and then the machine will scan it's barcode to verify if it's a valid can. During our thesis, we were only limited to drink cans so it needs to be checked against a database. Once the can is detected as valid, it will start the crushing process and give you 1 point for it.

If you want to redeem your points, you just tell it how much load you want (depends on your points) and it will send load to your phone. At that time we were limited to the following networks: Smart, Globe, Sun, Talk and Text and, Touch Mobile. Red Mobile went in the market at the time when our thesis was almost finished and there wasn't a provider for Red Mobile load yet.

The Original Version

I remember the original version of this thesis. It was made by a then-co-officer in our school computer organization. I was so amazed with their concept back then, even if it was a little crude. I don't know much about their interface, but it's detecting mechanism were lasers (kinda like the one in parking lots) and the crushing mechanism was a weight that smashes the can 3 times. It took a long time to crush one can since the crusher was just a weight that is moved by a bicycle(?) chain. It was a mechanical process. Also, you have to crush 60 cans at one go before and then you get your load immediately.

Our Enhanced Version

reverse vending machine interfaceinside of reverse vending machinethe reverse vending machine


Our thesis still needs a lot of improvement.
  1. What if someone flashes a barcode and fakes his points? So we need some sort of automated door for that. 
  2. What if I lost my mobile phone and I have a lot of points. How do I transfer my points?
  3. It consumes a lot of electricity because it's using a computer (a laptop at that, and a CRT monitor for display)
Being able to make something like this really inspires me to do more for the environment. If segregation were automated like our vending machine, I think it will drive a lot of people to recycle. Machines like these, if placed in strategic and easy to access places will really be hit.

cartoon stick figure waving hand earth friendly tip
How about you? Any ideas on how to drive people to segregate? Have you seen cool ideas like this that could help save the world? Share it and this blog :)


  1. thesis group is interested in improving this project..we would like to improve it by lessening it's power consumption..please do email me the details on how did you made this

  2. Reserved vending machine save the energy,It is true.Vending machine is a top of the marketing.

    Vending Machines Companies

  3. Hi! How much does this machine costs in Php, If I may ask? Looking forward to your response! :)

  4. Hi! we're actually working on the same project, but ours use plastic (pet) bottles, and dispenses vouchers or tickets that can be reimbursed at participating stores.
    we are currently looking for crusher technologies for plastics. do you have anything you can recommend?

  5. we're doing this also right now. can we share or trades our ideas regarding sa RVM? here's my email. pls do reply i'll wait.

  6. Hi this is our proposed machine for our thesis pls kindly send me some information about this .

  7. We are planning on improving your project, kindly send me some info regarding this awesome project. Thank you in advance! :)