By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

What motivates people to recycle? Well, there’s altruism. There’s peer-pressure. And there’s payback.

We all win when waste is diverted from the landfill. Cities save money (usually). Land is preserved. But these rewards, while tangible, are less visible. When was the last time you reviewed your city budget line items?

It’s the reward in hand that counts, and that’s the bright idea behind RecycleBank, which offers credits redeemable for discounts and store coupons to people who sign up and recycle. In fact, it ties the rewards directly to the action, by assigning points to the number of pounds recycled.

There’s an inherent irony in this — for sending out lots of recyclables, which means you consume a lot of things packaged in plastic, glass and aluminum — you get coupons to buy more things packaged in plastic, glass and aluminum. On the other hand, you’re going to need to buy certain things, why not tie it to good deeds?

And, the thing is, the idea works. I certainly wouldn’t turn down coupons to Bed, Bath and Beyond, Petco or Target (to name a few of the participating stores). It would make lugging my recyclables to the curb more lucrative. Because my city has an existing program, we’re not signed up with RecycleBank.

Apartment complexes and municipalities that aren’t under contract with a recycler can sign up with RecycleBank.

My step-mother’s town, Baltic, South Dakota, hooked up with Recycle Bank recently when their recycling contract with another firm came up for renewal. And as soon as residents found out they had a personal stake in the venture, they were slip-sliding to the curb with mounds of recyclables, never before seen and never mind the wind chill.

“It was tremendous. If you drive through town, the totes with the recycling in them, they can’t close them,” said Willette Reichert, a city council member (and my step-mother). “People are really recycling compared to what they were before.”

The townspeople had been recycling, but the previous bins were smaller, and they had to sort paper, plastic and metal items. The RecycleBank program mades it easier by collecting mixed recyclables in 95 gallon totes.

Baltic residents’ sense of duty suddenly was overtaken by an enthusiasm not usually associated with trash. Soon neighbors were comparing notes on how many points they’d compiled, and planning how to redeem them.

“They love it,” Reichert said. The attitude toward recycling “went from ho-hum to gung ho.”

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media