Everybody may be talking about recycling these days, but not everybody is doing it. Most communities still don’t have access to curbside recycling programs, so consumers who want to recycle must schlep their cans, bottles, paper and plastic to a sorting center, an inconvenience that can become a major obstacle for someone whose time is already tight. Curbside recycling makes the process easier, but still, there’s no guarantee someone is taking complete advantage of the opportunity to separate their recyclables from the rest of their trash. It’s easy to get careless and just toss everything into the garbage, especially given how much confusion clouds issues like which plastics or magazines can be recycled and which ones have to be landfilled.
Here’s how it works:
RecycleBank arranges with a municipal government or the company that hauls its trash to encourage citizens to recycle more and to actually monitor how much of their trash they’re recycling. Participants receive a large trash container that’s embedded with a computer chip so that the sanitation workers picking up a participant’s recycled goods can weigh, measure and scan each container before emptying it. The scanned data is stored in the participant’s account. For every pound recycled, the participant earns 2.5 RecycleBank points.
That’s where the rewards come in. RecycleBank points can be redeemed against new consumer purchases from a variety of local and national sponsors, including Kraft, Coca-Cola, and Target, as well as neighborhood restaurants and other businesses. But there’s another, and perhaps more important, reward: participants can also see what the environmental benefit of their individual recycling amounts to in terms of oil and trees saved. Anyone asking, "Does what I recycle really make a difference?" will get a strong "YES!!" every time they put their container of recyclables out for pick up.
Ideally, such a program would also encourage less consumption, whether products can be recycled or not. And hopefully, participants will use their rewards to favor the greenest products and services available.
For the moment, RecycleBank’s Monique Hartl says the company’s goal is to raise recycling rates in communities nationwide. With 300,000 households already participating, they’re well on their way.