By Catherine Colbert

“It pays to be green” is one of RecycleBank’s mantras. And that’s what the cutting-edge company, based in New York City, is all about: Paying people to be green, at least when it comes to recycling.

While most people who recycle are already self-motivated to participate, RecycleBank gives them an extra incentive in the form of Reward Points redeemable through local and national partners, such as Petco, IKEA, Staples and other retailers.

Customers can take advantage of this financial pat on the back whether they’re homeowners who recycle curbside or students who recycle through a RecycleBank Kiosk.

“We believe everyone can recycle and everyone should be rewarded for it,” says Lisa Pomerantz, director of marketing. “RecycleBank is founded on the belief that environmental solutions create economic opportunities. With that in mind, our goal is to increase recycling, reduce landfill needs, cut disposal costs, and build local economies.”

The program is straight-forward. Participants fill their recycle carts, which are embedded with a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. Before the customer’s cart is emptied, recycling trucks retrofitted with RecycleBank’s data technology weigh the cart and log the data. Kiosk users weigh their recyclables using a RecycleBank scale, then empty their recycling into nearby company carts. The information is transferred to a RecycleBank account, which participants check for their accumulated points and redeemable coupons.

For each four pounds of recyclables (all types can be mixed together in what’s known as “single stream” recycling), participants earn $1 in RecycleRewards.

“My family has earned over $300 recycling this year,” notes Philadelphia resident Jennifer Smith, who was interviewed as part of the company’s 2007 Second Nature report. “We spend our rewards at Starbucks, Whole Foods and Reading Terminal Market,” a historic local farmers market.

RecycleBank has inked deals with some 400 national and local corporate partners to develop a loyalty program for recyclers that’s rich with incentives appealing to a vast audience. While more than 300 of its partners represent regional and local companies, RecycleBank in 2007 focused on expanding its national partnerships by enlisting several U.S. companies, such as Petco, IKEA, Staples, ING Direct caf├ęs, and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

In 2007, alone, RecycleBank participants helped to save more than 200,000 trees and defer the use of 14 million gallons of oil, according to the company.

They also redirected more than 19,500 tons of material from the waste system.

In turn, participants earned more than 8 million RecycleBank Rewards Points and redeemed about 3 million of them within their local communities.

Established in Philadelphia, but now headquartered in the Big Apple, with offices in Philly and Wilmington, Delaware, RecycleBank has primarily served the Northeastern U.S. until 2008.

Having secured more than $13 million in venture capital funding in 2007, as well as $2 million from pop icon Coca-Cola, RecycleBank has been extending its reach nationwide and is making plans to expand its kiosk program in 2009.

Today RecycleBank operates in 12 states and is planning to develop a presence in about 15 states, including Texas, Virginia, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington, Oregon, and California.

Customers can sign up for the service once either their municipality or trash hauler has contracted with Recycle Bank to collect recyclables in a certain area.

While the company maintains its momentum in its curbside recycling efforts, RecycleBank is banking on the successful expansion of its kiosk program to reach new audiences, such as apartment dwellers and college students.