What if there were a reason to recycle? Wouldn't it be cool if you were, in some way, reimbursed for all that sticky fingered, paper cutting work that you do every Wednesday evening?
I mean, after all, you are performing a service. Basically, you're a miner. Mining your trash for aluminum, PET plastic, silica and cellulose. So why not get wages like miners do? Some people have been asking those questions...and that's why RecycleBank was formed.
But that's not why RecycleBank just got $13M in venture capital funding. They got that money because their system actually works.
RecycleBank puts an RFID chip in all of their recycling bins. The chip is linked to individual's names and accounts. The recycling trucks then weight your recycling (if properly sorted) and give you credits based on the amount of stuff you're recycling. The credits can then be exchanged like airline miles. Except, instead of flights, you get a buck off your latte at Starbucks, or cheaper dog food, or a free rental at Blockbuster.
Of course, there are a few problems with this idea. First, it kinda encourages people to consume more. I don't have much recycling because I drink water and read the newspaper online. If I got incentives for my cans, I might start drinking Mountain Dew again. Another possible issue is theft. As weird as it sounds, neighbors might start swapping bins under the cover of darkness, or even plundering recycleables.
But so far, in pilot projects, that doesn't seem to have been a problem. Two Philidelphia communities saw recycling rates increase from 7% and 35% to 90% each!
I haven't heard of a 90% recycling rate anywhere outside of Europe, so those are very exciting numbers. Especially because more people recycling means more raw material per man-hour and vehicle-mile, which signficantly increases the probability that recycling authroties will actually make money.
written by Jessica, May 31, 2008
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