For many people, knowing that consistently putting recyclable materials into the special bins helps keep the planet healthy, saves room in the land fill, avoids pollution of water, soil and air, reduces manufacturing costs, conserves natural resources, and keeps their city and county taxes lower is all the reward they need. They’re helping to achieve a grand goal. For others, more of an incentive is needed.
Some communities have chosen to take the punitive approach with mandated recycling programs and fines – just like there are fines for littering – for not recycling designated materials. But other communities are taking a more upbeat approach by directly rewarding citizens for their participation.
Rewards: Not a New Idea
Back in the day, kids earned pocket money by collecting glass pop bottles from their parents, neighbors and from vacant lots and roadsides. These could be taken to a grocery store and turned in to collect a bottle deposit.
Some have suggested a similar program could be implemented for recyclable food and beverage containers today. Most stores have opposed this plan because they don’t want to be saddled with the responsibility of collecting and paying these deposit amounts and they don’t want to have to store the goods that are turned in.
On the flip-side, some stores are working with local waste management companies by installing mini-recycling centers in their parking lots. In most cases there is no financial incentive, but the convenience encourages their customers to participate.
Community-Wide Cash Reward Programs
More and more communities are entering into a partnership between waste management, local businesses and residents. Details vary by program, but in general; customers use a wheely-bin to store all the accepted recyclable materials. These are collected by a special truck. The address’s participation is tracked, and discount coupons to local businesses are earned through their participation. The businesses get to advertise on the program’s web site and generally increase their customer flow because of the program.
Everyone wins: residents get discounts at local businesses, the businesses gain new customers, the waste management companies gain recyclables to sell, the government reduces its waste disposal rates by qualifying for the higher recycling rates, and the landfill reduces the bulk coming into the facility.
For some examples of actual programs and how they operate, browse these links:
Fund Raising Programs
Another way to benefit from recycling is to join one of the programs that pay an organization for specific recyclable items like printer cartridges, cell phones, small electronics items and spent rechargeable batteries.
Details vary by program: items accepted and whether the program will pick-up or you will have to ship the items to them. Many of these provide a pre-paid shipping label.
Schools, churches, youth organizations, sports clubs, bands, and more are all using these programs for their fundraising. In doing so they reap all the benefits of recycling we’ve discussed above. Again: a win-win situation. Just of few of these programs are:
Direct Recycling Rewards
If you are not fund-raising for a group and your community does not offer a rewards program you can always cash in by taking your recyclables to a processor that will pay you for them instead of depositing them in waste management recycling bins. You may need to do some research to find the nearest scrap yard or recycling center. And you may need to drive a ways if you’re rural, which will mean collecting enough to pay the travel expenses or time it with a trip to some other destination in the same area. This is not as convenient as a community program, but can be worthwhile.
What can you do?
If your community does not have a recycling rewards program, you could write to your waste management company and ask about implementing such a program. If enough people inquire, they will consider it. Or talk with your city and county government officials and suggest such a program to them. Again, if enough people show an interest, they will too.
By working together, the whole community can benefit.