Recycle Bank - Being green can now make you some green
By Teresa McUsic
Being green can now make you some green—and quickly grow a city’s curbside recycling program.
Citizens of several cities in North Texas, including Carrollton, Fort Worth, Hurst, Haslet and Lancaster, can now earn points toward gift cards, coupons and discounts off local restaurants, national retailers and products simply by filling their recycling bins at home. Arlington will be joining the program starting January 1.
The recycle incentives program is run by Recyclebank, a New York-based company that partners with communities to boost participation in their recycling programs. Started in 2008, the company now works with more than 300 city recycling programs in the U.S. and United Kingdom and has more than 4 million members.
“It’s a win-win scenario,” said Fred Hannon, general regional manager for Recyclebank. “When people recycle more, that means less that goes into the landfill, which has an environmental impact. Less money is needed for cities to send trucks to disposal sites, while cities can often make money on their recyclables program. And residents can benefit by earning points that they often redeem in their community.”
Signing up is easy. Participating cities have their own recyclebank webpages on their city websites. The program also is open to residents who don’t have curbside recycling or live in cities not linked with the program by signing up at www.recyclebank.com. These residents can take environmental pledges and online educational quizzes to earn points.
Some who live in participating city programs, like Hurst’s, will get a new trash bin that with an RFID chip to record the weight of their recycling bin. Individual bin weights are then added together and the recycled tonnage for the whole city is calculated. Points are awarded based on total volume and split evenly among those who also take the added step to sign up for the Recyclebank program.
Fort Worth’s Recyclebank program does not include the RFID chip, however. Points are awarded based on weight of citywide weekly recycled collections and distributed equally among those who sign up for the program and live in the city. “For every pound, we award 2.5 points, so 20 pounds of material would equal 50 points,” said Hannon. “We’re like a frequent flier program for the waste industry. The more you recycle, the more points you earn.”
The program has seen impressive results in other cities. The City of Hurst has gone from 17.9 collecting tons of recycled material per service day to 24.7 tons, an increase of 28 percent in just a year, said Ashleigh Whiteman, spokesperson for the city. Whiteman signed up for her own Recylebank account when the program started last year and said she earns between 50 and 60 points a week regularly. A weekly email from Recyclebank tells her how many points she has.
Like many Recyclebank members, Whiteman earns extra points by taking online quizzes at the site and encouraging friends to sign up. Bonus points can be earned either at the website, through Recyclebank’s smartphone app or via phone. Whiteman said she hasn’t used her points yet, and plans to accumulate them for bigger incentives that take more points.
The City of Houston has seen almost a doubling of recycled materials since it rolled out its Recyclebank program in three phases beginning in November 2009, Hannon said. Other cities like Philadelphia and Cincinnati have had similar increases in recycling because of the incentive program.
Sample of Local and National Deals Through Reyclebank.com:
• $5 off $25 or more at Half Price Books for 50 points
• $5 off $40 or more at Sprouts Farmers Markets, 50 points
• Free appetizer with two entries at Pappadeaux or Pappasito, 50 points
• $25 off $125 or more online at Kmart, 200 points
• $35 off $300 or more online at Sears, 200 points
• $10 gift card at Wal-Mart, the Gap, Home Depot, Best Buy, 2,500 points
• $10 gift card at iTunes, 2,500 points
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Teresa McUsic is an Arlington-based writer focused on consumer, environmental and health issues for a number of local and national publications. Her column, The Savvy Consumer, appears in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached at TMcUsic@aol.com