Small-town bottle depot makes sorting easier

NEW NORWAY, Alta. — Bent over a table sorting cans and bottles all day long was the incentive Deny Moody needed to build an automatic bottle sorter for his bottling recycling depot.

“I figured there has got to be a better, simpler way,” said Moody, owner of the Bottle Depot in New Norway.

Automated bottling depots aren’t unheard of in large cities, but few small facilities can afford the million dollar machines. Instead, most recycling depots rely on staff to sort and count cans and bottles.

Moody had a plan for creating a bottle sorting machine percolating in his head, but it was brought to life by an inventive Australian farm kid.

“I had the concept, but he could bring it to life.”

Cans and bottles are dumped into a hopper and lifted up an elevator on a second horizontal belt. The metal cans continue down the belt and are counted and sorted by a six-lane can counter. The rest of the recyclables are placed by hand into tubes and into large totes.

“If it is just cans, I stand and wait, but if it is juice boxes and other things I am like an octopus and I wish I had more hands.”

Moody said one of the keys to making his plan happen was the low cost of sensors to count the cans and bottles.

As part of the Beverage Container Management Board he is subject to random audits to ensure the recyclables in the depot match what has been recorded in returns.

Recently, a secret shopper from the container management board brought in bottles and the automatic sorter tallied the containers exactly the same as the shopper.

Cans make up the most common container returned to the depot. They go into a six-section divider, where they are automatically counted and dropped into a tote. | Mary MacArthur photo

A second, smaller sorting machine is partially built and is designed to sort and quickly count small batches of bottles.

“People love it,” said Moody of the machine.

“In our association everyone is getting older and greyer. This machine allows us to stay in business and grow our business.”

Recently, a family from Ponoka, Alta., brought a 16 -foot trailer piled high with bags of cans they had saved from the summer. It took an hour to count the cans and hand over $1,500 to the family.

“I want to be able to process people quickly.”

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