Popular Mexican food chain Boojum has announced its new partnership with Dublin tech start up Sensi, as the business brings gamification and AI to support its sustainability strategy.

The collaboration will commence with the installation, in its South Great George’s Street restaurant, of Sensi’s world-first AI Reverse Vending Machine, rewarding customers for recycling common items such as plastic bottles and aluminium cans. The overall aim of this scheme is to encourage a positive attitude to recycling for customers and to also decrease the amount of recyclable cross contamination which negatively affects efficiency and ability to recycle.

Representing the start of a series of new environmentally conscious iniatives for Boojum, the Sensi machine will reward the chain’s customers for their recycling efforts through a gamification model.

Robert Powell, Head of Operations at Boojum, said the company was committed to sustainability and that he hoped the initiative would “drive real change where consumer habits are concerned”.

Dublin based Sensi was founded by Nathan Misischi and Dexmont Peña, who have built Sensi’s Reverse Vending Machine (RVM) using a type of artificial intelligence (AI) called visual recognition. Unlike other Reverse Vending Machines that recognise the items based on a barcode, the Sensi ‘smart’ machine recognises based on the item’s appearance. Once the machine accepts the item, it will give the consumer the opportunity to obtain a digital reward voucher where they can potentially redeem a free meal, drinks, and other popular menu items.

Robert added: “We are delighted to be working with such an ambitious sustainability focused Irish tech start up. Sensi have real growth ambitions not just in Ireland but across the world and the team at Boojum are excited to be bringing them on board at the start of their journey. The South Great George’s Street store is just the start, with plans in place to roll out the RVM technology across our entire estate in line with government recycling objectives.

“Once rolled out over our 17 restaurants, over time this could potentially see an estimated 350,000 bottles and cans recycled through our portfolio. This collaboration represents a strategic eco investment for us in a dynamic Irish company with an experienced team and a world-first disruptive product. As the Irish Government steps up its recycling targets through the EU Single Use Plastic Directive, Sensi represents an innovative investment for Boojum to address our recycling efforts as a company. At Boojum, we know that as a company we will play a key role in the transition to a circular economy in the coming years. We are very excited about unveiling further environmentally conscious initiatives and plans for Boojum over the next few months.

Commenting on the new collaboration, Sensi’s Co-Founder Nathan Misischi said: “Boojum is one of the most popular food chains in Ireland, so the Sensi team was very excited when we engaged in initial talks with the brand. We are confident that the installation of our innovative smart RVM at its South Great George’s Street site will encourage Boojum fanatics to partake in recycling and make more environmentally conscious decisions with their waste. Our machine operates by only allowing the disposal of selected items. This leads to a virtually uncontaminated, high-quality collection stream of recyclable materials – good enough to go directly for processing without additional sorting, an excellent example of the circular economy in action.

“Once the item is verified, and disposal completed, digital vouchers are produced enabling a full contactless experience for the user. We are confident Boojum’s highly engaged customer based are going to love this new experience and look forward to working with the chain further in the months to come.”

Boojum has appointed global professional services firm Ernst & Young (EY) as its leading consultancy organisation for the development of its long-term sustainability strategy. With ambitions to become a leader in environmental management within the restaurant and fast food sector, it is hoped the project will result in a comprehensive 10-year plan for the chain, addressing all company operations and how they can proactively become more environmentally and socially sustainable as a whole.