Innovative “Philly Rewards Recycling” Program Gets Underway

Beginning this week about 6,000 homes in the Germantown and Chestnut Hill sections of Philadelphia will be involved in testing a brand new approach to recycling that its backers hope will provide an incentive far beyond "doing the right thing" –- hard cash in your pocket.

The City of Philadelphia is teaming up with Blue Mountain Recycling and RecycleBank to introduce single stream recycling to residents as well as an incentive program that gives them dollars off grocery bills, movie rentals and sneaker purchases based on the amount of material they recycle each week.

In the first phase of the pilot program residents will be able to put bottles and cans (steel, glass, aluminum and, for the first time, plastic bottles and jugs) into their recycling container, and set out mixed paper and cardboard in a separate bundle. In the next phase, the pilot program households will be able to set out all recyclables in a new container that will be provided by the partnership.

Each new container is outfitted with an RFID tag coded for each household that can be read and weighed by the truck picking up the recyclables. This allows tracking the amount of material recycled by each household.

New technology, pioneered by Blue Mountain Recycling in Philadelphia, will separate the recyclables at their processing plant under their existing contract with Smurfit-Stone.

In phase two of the pilot, residents will each get a RecycleBank account that keeps a running total of the materials they recycle. Based on the amount they recycle, their account is credited with "dollars" that can add up to real dollar coupons redeemable at local participating grocery, restaurants, video, retail stores and sponsors like Home Depot and Coca-Cola. RecycleBank dollars can also be donated to local nonprofit and community groups.

It costs participating businesses nothing to be part of the initial coupon program since many businesses already have coupon programs of their own. The RecycleBank program becomes another way to deliver the coupons and drive potential customers to local businesses.

Each household will receive a monthly RecycleBank statement to track their recycling along with recycling reminders and special coupon offers. Households can "earn" up to $300 a year through the program (about 40 pounds of recyclables a month) and get access to their account and redeem coupons on a special website or over the telephone.

Blue Mountain Recycling and RecycleBank are underwriting some of the costs of the pilot program.

The sponsors hope to increase the recycling rate from about five percent of the total city waste stream (the current City average) to about 40 percent, pulling hundreds of thousands more tons of material out of the waste stream and increase the participation rate from 27 to 50 percent.

If this program is rolled out to other areas of the city, it is proposed that RecycleBank will be paid for managing the program and administering the coupon system through a portion of the savings in landfill dumping fees avoided by the City and recycling funds the City now receives. For each ton of material recycled, the City will save about $52 by not having to take that waste to a landfill. Next year dumping costs are expected to increase under a new waste disposal contract. Savings expected by avoiding dumping costs above the cost of the program will be kept by the City.

City residents will get a simple recycling program that recycles many more materials than they have in the past in a way that directly rewards them for their efforts.

Blue Mountain Recycling, RecycleBank and the City Recycling Office will be carefully documenting the results of the program and making changes to the program based on those results before expanding it to more of the City's 530,000 households.

The Philadelphia Office of Recycling run by David Robinson, the City's Recycling Coordinator, oversees one of the largest curbside recycling programs in the country.

Blue Mountain Recycling in Philadelphia was founded by Herb Northrop and David DiIenno in 2000 and is the only full service recycling facility in the Eastern United States offering single-stream recycling for residential, office, stores and other commercial customers. Single-stream recycling makes it convenient for customers to recycle paper, cardboard, aluminum, tin, glass and plastic bottles and jugs in the same containers.

RecycleBank was founded in 2003 by Patrick FitzGerald and Ron Gonen and is based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania and is a for-profit company affiliated with Columbia University. Its mission is to promote sustainability and "provide communities with a cost effective and environmentally conscious solution to waste collection and disposal."

NewsClip: City to Reward for Recycling


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