IDEA & OPPORTUNITY > Incentive-based recycling

Going green has gotten a lot more enticing to consumers in communities served by Philadelphia-based RecycleBank. Households can earn RecycleBank Dollars, redeemable for discount coupons at select retailers, just for putting their recyclables out to be collected. But the incentives don't stop there. It's also great promotion and community recognition for participating businesses. Sounds too good to be true? Well, you may be surprised to learn that it's even more cost-effective than most traditional recycling programs.

How does it work? RecycleBank containers are embedded with identifying barcodes, and households can throw all of their recyclable waste into one bin (single stream recycling system, also known as making it easy for customers to be green). Collection trucks scan and weigh the containers to track how much each household is recycling. The more customers recycle, the more they earn in RecycleBank dollars-up to 35 USD per month. Customers can track their points online and redeem points for coupons that can be used toward purchases at major chains such as Whole Foods, RiteAid and Starbucks, as well as local companies that choose to be part of the program. More than 250 businesses currently participate.

While many recycling programs have proven to be more expensive to run than they monetarily are worth, RecycleBank wins by driving higher utilization of trucks and manpower. The cost of running the program is far exceeded by the money saved in landfill fees: RecycleBank charges municipalities USD 24-30 a household, and guarantees clients they will save at least that amount in disposal fees as waste is diverted from landfills and incinerators. Meanwhile, residents are racing to fill their bins with recyclable paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, tin and aluminium: in test neighbourhoods, the amount recycled per household went from an average of 5 lbs to 35 lbs per week. Demonstrating that it pays to reward good behaviour. RecycleBank's reach is currently limited to West Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware, but it's generating some great buzz and could easily be expanded to other areas. For another example of incentive-driven recycling, check out our earlier coverage of reverse vending machines.



Spotted by: Bob Staub
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