Mindful Metropolis January 2010 : Page 12

did you hear? recycling rewards recycleBank program offers incentives to recycle By jennifer gilBert geBHArdt wHen Hyde PArK resident Roger Huff tosses cans and bottles into his recycling bin, he not only knows that he’s helping to divert garbage from the landfi ll, but also that he’s making a do- nation to his neighborhood school. How is he turning trash into cash? He’s participating in a new opportunity available to some Chicago residents called RecycleBank, a program that provides rewards like gift cards and coupons from national and local retailers, as well as the chance to support local nonprofi ts and schools for doing what many already do—recycle. When the City of Chicago launched the Recy- cleBank pilot program in August, computerized ID tags were installed in the blue recycling carts belonging to 10,000 households in wards 5, 8 and 19. When recyclables are picked up, trucks retrofi tted with RecycleBank technology track the weight of the recyclables. Households are given points for the amount they recycle, which then can be redeemed for rewards. Residents in the pilot area simply need to create an account on RecycleBank’s website or by phone and the points will start rolling in. According to Recycle- Bank’s Midwest Vice President Atul Nanda, as of October, 35 percent of eligible residents had signed up for RecycleBank. Hyde Park resident Karina Velez didn’t need much convincing. “I thought sure—why not get reward points for doing something we’re already doing?” The City hopes to increase recycling rates with this new incentive, and if the six-month pi- lot is successful, the program will expand to all 38,000 households in the three wards. Recycle- Bank has a strong track record—what started in 2004 as an MBA project for Columbia Uni- 12 january 2010 versity student and future RecycleBank CEO Ron Gonen has skyrocketed, and now serves over one million people across 20 states and the United Kingdom. RecycleBank reports that these households have cumulatively saved more than 1.8 million trees and 118 million gallons of oil through their recycling efforts. That’s a big reward in itself. The city pays RecycleBank based on the amount recycled beyond a certain baseline level. As the city saves money on landfi ll diver- sion, RecycleBank is paid a fee. RecycleBank es- timates that Chicago will see about 600 tons of waste diverted and over $500,000 in local eco- nomic stimulus as a result of the pilot program. What’s the key to RecycleBank’s success? Ac- cording to Nanda, it’s the involvement at the lo- cal level of both energized residents and local businesses that offer rewards. “People are excit- ed to redeem their rewards locally,” says Nanda. The opportunity to help out his neighbor- hood school, William H. Ray Elementary, is what moved Huff to sign up to participate with Re- cycleBank. He worked with the school’s princi- pal and science teacher to submit a grant pro- posal to RecycleBank’s Green Schools Program, which enables participants to donate their points to local schools. Those points are then matched by dollar donations which go toward assisting schools with their green efforts. Every pound of recyclables translates to 2.5 points, and 100 points equals a $10 donation. Ray El- ementary will use funds to improve their veg- etable and butterfl y gardens and integrate the gardens into the school’s curriculum. Huff says he has averaged 100 points every other week, so the school has already been able to start re- ceiving its rewards. Velez is not sure what she’ll do with her re- ward points yet. She’s letting them accumulate, and then will have a family meeting to decide the best use of the points. With over 2,000 re- ward partners, including national and local re- tailers, restaurants and charities, it might not be an easy choice. No matter what she chooses, she feels good about participating: “Everybody contributes to the landfi ll so why not participate in something positive?” Many people like Velez who were already re- cycling will continue to do so and receive Recy- cleBank’s rewards, but will this incentive cause previous non-recyclers to start fi lling up their blue carts? If results in other cities provide clues about what will happen in Chicago, the odds are good. In Cherry Hill, New Jersey, recycling rates doubled, with average household recycling go- ing from 11 pounds per week to 25 pounds per week. And after the fi rst month of the program in North Miami, Florida, overall recycling for the city went from less than 20 tons to more than 128 tons per month. RecycleBank may turn out to be the nudge Chicago needs to energize the fl edgling (and still rolling out until the end of 2011) Blue Cart program. The City has not announced plans for expan- sion beyond the six-month pilot. Stay tuned by visiting cityofchicago.org. For more information about RecycleBank visit recyclebank.com or call 888.727.2978. Jennifer Gilbert Gebhardt is a Chicago-based freelance writer.

Recycling Rewards

Jennifer Gilbert Gebhardt

RecycleBank program offers incentives to recycle<br /> <br /> Hyde Park resident Roger Huff tosses cans and bottles into his recycling bin, he not only knows that he’s helping to divert garbage from the landfill, but also that he’s making a donation to his neighborhood school. How is he turning trash into cash? He’s participating in a new opportunity available to some Chicago residents called RecycleBank, a program that provides rewards like gift cards and coupons from national and local retailers, as well as the chance to support local nonprofits and schools for doing what many already do—recycle.<br /> <br /> When the City of Chicago launched the RecycleBank pilot program in August, computerized ID tags were installed in the blue recycling carts belonging to 10,000 households in wards 5, 8 and 19. When recyclables are picked up, trucks retrofitted with RecycleBank technology track the weight of the recyclables. Households are given points for the amount they recycle, which then can be redeemed for rewards. Residents in the pilot area simply need to create an account on RecycleBank’s website or by phone and the points will start rolling in. According to Recycle- Bank’s Midwest Vice President Atul Nanda, as of October, 35 percent of eligible residents had signed up for RecycleBank. Hyde Park resident Karina Velez didn’t need much convincing. “I thought sure—why not get reward points for doing something we’re already doing?” The City hopes to increase recycling rates with this new incentive, and if the six-month pilot is successful, the program will expand to all 38,000 households in the three wards. Recycle- Bank has a strong track record—what started in 2004 as an MBA project for Columbia Uni-Versity student and future RecycleBank CEO Ron Gonen has skyrocketed, and now serves over one million people across 20 states and the United Kingdom. RecycleBank reports that these households have cumulatively saved more than 1.8 million trees and 118 million gallons of oil through their recycling efforts. That’s a big reward in itself.<br /> <br /> The city pays RecycleBank based on the amount recycled beyond a certain baseline level. As the city saves money on landfill diversion, RecycleBank is paid a fee. RecycleBank estimates that Chicago will see about 600 tons of waste diverted and over $500,000 in local economic stimulus as a result of the pilot program.<br /> <br /> What’s the key to RecycleBank’s success? According to Nanda, it’s the involvement at the local level of both energized residents and local businesses that offer rewards. “People are excited to redeem their rewards locally,” says Nanda.<br /> <br /> The opportunity to help out his neighborhood school, William H. Ray Elementary, is what moved Huff to sign up to participate with RecycleBank.<br /> <br /> He worked with the school’s principal and science teacher to submit a grant proposal to RecycleBank’s Green Schools Program, which enables participants to donate their points to local schools. Those points are then matched by dollar donations which go toward assisting schools with their green efforts. Every pound of recyclables translates to 2.5 points, and 100 points equals a $10 donation. Ray Elementary will use funds to improve their vegetable and butterfly gardens and integrate the gardens into the school’s curriculum. Huff says he has averaged 100 points every other week, So the school has already been able to start receiving its rewards.<br /> <br /> Velez is not sure what she’ll do with her reward points yet. She’s letting them accumulate, and then will have a family meeting to decide the best use of the points. With over 2,000 reward partners, including national and local retailers, restaurants and charities, it might not be an easy choice. No matter what she chooses, she feels good about participating: “Everybody contributes to the landfill so why not participate in something positive?” Many people like Velez who were already recycling will continue to do so and receive RecycleBank’s rewards, but will this incentive cause previous non-recyclers to start filling up their blue carts? If results in other cities provide clues about what will happen in Chicago, the odds are good. In Cherry Hill, New Jersey, recycling rates doubled, with average household recycling going from 11 pounds per week to 25 pounds per week. And after the first month of the program in North Miami, Florida, overall recycling for the city went from less than 20 tons to more than 128 tons per month. RecycleBank may turn out to be the nudge Chicago needs to energize the fledgling (and still rolling out until the end of<br /> <br /> 2011) Blue Cart program.<br /> <br /> The City has not announced plans for expansion beyond the six-month pilot. Stay tuned by visiting cityofchicago.org. For more information about RecycleBank visit recyclebank.com or call<br /> <br /> 888. 727.2978.

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