Recycling is one of those feel-good first steps in the path to green living. The latest wave is get-paid recycling - in a half dozen states, consumers are racking up points for discounts or prizes. Now GreenOps (copying Sweden's idea?) is the latest to set up 'reverse vending' recycling boxes - at retailers like Whole Foods, and offering 'redeemable points'. There are currently at least 2 dozen of the automated recycling boxes in Arizona and California, and once you've saved some points, you can, according to Waste Management, redeem them for 'dinner out' or a 'big discount on family fun.' But there's another way to go in the recycling path - instead of making recycling a way to get more stuff, how 'bout using it to generate more charitable giving?
Photo April Streeter.
In Sweden, a nation of dedicated recyclers, the bottle return terminals at major stores tend to have two buttons - when you press the first, you get a little receipt with a bar code that tells you exactly how much deposit you will get back when you go through the check out. Alternatively, if you click the yellow button, you can donate your 'pant' or deposit money to a charity - in this case, The Swedish Cooperative Center (SCC), which fights poverty and supports development in Africa and Asia. About 50 plastic 1-liter bottles (200 Swedish crowns) is enough to send a Costa Rican coffee bean farmer to organic grower's training.
While I admit I don't always think to press the yellow button, it would be great to see a system like this in the U.S. About U.S. $1 million was collected in 2008 from returned plastic for the SCC - but the organization estimates there's more than 10 times that amount of potential bottles that are still thrown in the trash instead of recycled.
More on recycling's down side on TreeHugger
Recycling is Bullshit; Make Nov. 15 Zero Waste Day, not America Recycles Day
Big Brothers Spies on Your...Recycling?
4 Ways to Earn Cash From Recycling
Has Recycling Jumped the Shark?