10 more memories from the TOMRA team

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Courtesy of TOMRA Sorting GmbH.

As we wrap up our 45th anniversary year at TOMRA, the team at TOMRA Collection Solutions shares their anecdotes from working at the company. From across the globe and across teams, some have worked here for almost 40 years and some for just a few months – and here are their stories.
Ingrid Tronstad, Project Manager Brand (Norway)

Celebrating this year my 15th anniversary of working at TOMRA reminds me of how I first got hired. I was on maternity leave when I was invited in for an interview… but excitement turned to panic when I realized that I couldn’t find a babysitter for my son – no grandparents, friends or neighbors were available! I ended up having to take my eight-month-old baby with me to the interview, thinking he would be sleeping peacefully in his stroller. But he had no plans for sleeping, so I ended up bouncing him on my knee and wiping up drool while fielding questions about my strengths and weaknesses from the HR director. After a while, the HR director asked if she should hold him a little for me, so he went back and forth between us during the interview. I was mortified, but clearly TOMRA wasn’t: I got the job and have loved my time in TOMRA since then!

Leigh Chapman, Human Resources Manager (Australia)

It is a very exciting time to be at the forefront of recycling change in Australia. From a very young age, I have always had a concern about the direction that our environment and its resources are going. Since becoming a parent and seeing the impact that this now has on my daughter, this has heightened my concerns tenfold. 42% of litter in our state of New South Wales is made up of bottles and cans, which has such a huge impact on resources as well as cleanliness. I have been lucky enough to see firsthand the impact of the new Return & Earn container deposit scheme we are part of in NSW. This happened when I was driving to work one morning: I saw a lady, with a bag in hand, collecting cans on the side of the road. That one small moment has already had a positive impact and I am extremely excited to see the results that will come in the future months.

Harald Henriksen, Head of TOMRA Collection Solutions (Norway)

I have had a very good life in TOMRA so far, since 2004. First I led our Technology section for many years, then I was responsible for starting up our business in China, then had five years leading our business in North America, and now head up the entire TOMRA Collection Solutions organization. It has all been very motivating and inspiring – learning a lot every day, and meeting and working with so many good colleagues and friends in so many different fields and countries.

But, I must say that it’s in the last 12 months that I really feel our business strategy and strong global mega-trends are all coming together. Everything we have done, everything we have learned through many years of hard work, is so extremely valuable now with the challenges and transformation going on in the world. People are really opening their eyes to the urbanization trend, the growing waste challenge, and the mounting concern over plastic pollution and littering in rivers and oceans. The need for a circular economy approach, with a focus on closed-loop recycling, is needed now more than ever before. We are here to provide solutions to this challenge. TOMRA today collects 35 billion used beverage containers every year; this may sound like a big number, but it's only 2-3% of all beverages sold every year. Think about how much good we could do for the planet if we were able to collect 10 times as much as we do today, and obtain high-quality, food-grade recycled material – instead of these empty beverage containers ending up in our streets, landfills and oceans. This gives a real sense of urgency to the work we do and the contribution TOMRA makes.

Scott Peterson, Machine Cleaning Technician (United States)

Since 1993 I have worked for either TOMRA, a business purchased by TOMRA or a business purchased from TOMRA. Before life in TOMRA, I studied a degree in Natural Resource Management and managed a small recycling center. I began my TOMRA career in California, then transferred to Oregon, later moved with the company to Washington state to be closer to my family, and now I work with TOMRA in New York. TOMRA has been with me all over the country! I have also had the opportunity here to pursue a variety of roles, including managing facilities, servicing machines as a technician, and working in sales. Our technicians are top in their field and I am proud to work alongside these gifted teammates. Our supervisory team have the integrity and forethought that one wants from their leaders. I have greatly enjoyed working for TOMRA over the years and look forward to continuing to do so.

Wei Ma, Vice President Government Affairs - Asia Pacific (China)

I am brand new to TOMRA, having started at the company in February 2017. When I first told my friends about reverse vending machines, and that I work towards the introduction of a circular economy and deposit return systems in China, most of the comments I received were “That’s a great concept, but the market isn't ready for it yet…” This was probably also my thought when I first heard about the job! As the days goes by, working with and inspired by enthusiastic colleagues, it makes me believe that we could indeed achieve this, and that the future is now. I am so proud to be part of the process of changing people’s perceptions and ways of handling waste packaging in China.

Kwok Ho, Product Manager (Norway)

I actually got a job at TOMRA while I was on summer holiday, visiting Norway for the first time with my Norwegian girlfriend. I was a fresh graduate and very new to the local language, and after a month of job hunting the only company that gave me an interview was TOMRA – thankfully, I got the job! My team was extremely welcoming, and I was given many opportunities to try out my strengths and grow in the role. Language classes were not a great success for me, so I learnt Norwegian on the ground with my very patient colleagues at TOMRA. Fun fact: that TOMRA job interview was the very first time I tasted coffee (what can you do when your potential new manager puts a cup down in front of you?). I was awake for 20 hours after that interview, and have been a coffee addict ever since.

Grazia Conti, Sales Manager Digital (Germany)

I joined TOMRA last June. I saw the company as a chance to diversify my professional product portfolio, while entering an exciting industry with a very appealing mission: “Rethink, Reimagine, Resource”. Having lived in Germany for many years, after moving from my native Italy, I knew the rules here for bringing back empty bottles, but never paid attention to the supplier. Since joining TOMRA, I have been observing where reverse vending machines are positioned, and how consumers interact with them. Finally “rethinking”. I find it very interesting to have the possibility, through TOMRA’s consumer engagement solutions, to work with colleagues and customers to plan and implement a seamless digital experience for reverse vending users. Humbly “reimagining”. The Internet of Things and integrated omni-channel solutions are challenging us to always improve our product offerings and leverage our strategy. Definitely “resourcing”! I am excited to have the possibility to contribute to a better environment – to leave a legacy while building business.

Gintarė Paulikienė, Accountant (Lithuania)

I have been with TOMRA since the company’s first steps in Lithuania. Firstly, I was involved as a consultant accountant from an accounting company. When the roll-out of TOMRA reverse vending machines started locally, I got an offer to become a full-time member of the TOMRA Lithuania team. I gave a lot of thought as to whether or not I should accept, because I hadn’t been an in-house accountant in my life. But, I made a final decision when I met the TOMRA office manager and she said to me, “Please join our company! I like you and I do not want to work with an accountant who is grumpy all the time and fills every inch of the office with plants.” We still laugh about this meeting. I am happy that I accepted the offer because TOMRA does a great job and has a wonderful team!

Sonny Söderberg, President TOMRA Japan (Japan)

In Japan, we have a 90+% collection rate of PET bottles, even without a container deposit system. Without a deposit system, we must imagine new benefits of using reverse vending machines, and more exciting incentives for consumers to engage themselves with a recycling lifestyle. For example, in the case of Japan, how can TOMRA help reduce the costs for curbside collection, ease labor shortages and help redefine the role of retail in the resource loop? If the problem is different, the solution must also be different. To me, TOMRA is a group of global problem solvers. Everyone’s ideas are considered, and in the end the best ideas win. This is why I think TOMRA will continue make a real, positive impact on the world, and what makes working here so rewarding.

Kari Tharaldsen, Canteen Coordinator (Norway)

I started with TOMRA way back in 1979, when a friend of mine working at the company as a cleaner mentioned they needed extra cleaning help in TOMRA’s new, large premises. Two years later I began working permanently as a cleaner when we expanded to two floors. For several years I worked with cleaning in the evenings, and then in the company canteen in the daytime. Now I work in solely in the canteen, making and serving lunch to 140 colleagues in the TOMRA team every day. It has been so fantastic to be part of TOMRA, from working with the co-founders Tore and Petter Planke and their welcoming family, to the big company it has become today. I thrive very well at TOMRA, and love my work and my colleagues here!

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