Thursday, April 22, 2010


Kiosks Offer Recyclers Free Rewards

Sure, the feeling of helping the planet might be nice when you recycle, and it's the law in many places. But you might rather get rewards like free Pilates classes or discounts at restaurants.

PepsiCo Inc., the nation's second-largest drink company, and Waste Management Inc., the largest U.S. trash hauler, say their new electronic kiosks in high-traffic areas like gas stations and stadiums will offer points toward prizes. And that will entice more people to recycle more bottles and cans.

Starting next month, people will be able to scan in their bottles and cans at machines that look like fancy ATMs to work toward rewards like half off a hotel stay. The companies wouldn't say how many containers it will take to earn such a prize.

Jeremy Cage, PepsiCo's chief marketing officer for international foods and leader of the Dream Machine Recycling Initiative, said the program gives consumers convenience and short-term gratification.

"What it comes down to, consumers need something more than, 'I'm saving the planet.' There has to be something in it for them, something in it in terms of material reward and in terms of emotional reward," he said.

The multiyear Dream Machine program aims to get more than half of all bottles and cans into recycling bins. Americans now recycle about one-third, according to industry data, although rates are much higher in the 11 states with bottle deposit laws.

Americans' recycling rate has plateaued in recent years for unknown reasons. Betsy Smidinger, acting director for the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Resource Conservation and Sustainability Division, said incentive programs like the Dream Machines can boost recycling.

Here's how the program works: People bring any recyclable aluminum cans or PET plastic bottles -- not just those containing PepsiCo products -- to a kiosk and scan them as if they're at a grocery store self-checkout. When the containers are accepted, that adds points to an account at Or consumers can get a receipt with codes to enter later at the website, which run by an offshoot of Houston-based Waste Management.

About 75 other Greenopolis kiosks nationwide offer similar rewards. Another program called RecycleBank gives people points for recycling electronics or getting rid of junk. And some organizations offer cash or tax credits for recycled electronics and other goods.

Most people already can recycle through curbside programs at home or by dropping off recyclables. And some cities and most states require recycling in some form. But the rates could be still higher everywhere through a variety of efforts, experts said.

"What would make them improve most radically would be more frequent and convenient curbside collection programs, increased deposit container laws and extended producer responsibility," said Samantha MacBride, who teaches at Columbia University and has a book on recycling coming out next fall.

PepsiCo, based in Purchase, N.Y., wouldn't say what it's spending on the project, which it is unveiling this week to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day Thursday. By the end of May, 500 of 3,000 planned machines will be installed in Southern California, where a statewide bottle-deposit law is already in effect.

In connection with the project, PepsiCo promises to donate to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, which helps veterans start businesses. The more people use the Dream Machines, the more PepsiCo said it will give that program. But it wouldn't say how much -- or name its minimum gift.

Most people need nudging to recycle because only one-third do so to help the planet, said Robert Gifford, professor of psychology and environmental studies at University of Victoria, in Canada. Others do it for reasons that benefit them personally. So reward programs could pose a danger: Once the incentives are gone, people may stop.

On the other hand, he said "people do develop habits and some might continue to do it because they did it yesterday."

Hollywood Studios Cut Trash Production

Hollywood is producing less trash these days - 40 million pounds less.

The Solid Waste Task Force says major movie studios collectively diverted 66 percent of studio sets and other solid waste from landfills in an industrywide effort to be more environmentally friendly.

MPAA President Bob Pisano said Wednesday the joint effort by the Motion Picture Association of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has reached "an all-time high" in recycling and reusing since it began in the early 1990s.

Disney will donate of a portion of ticket sales for its new film "Oceans" to support coral reef conservation. Fox is marking Earth Day's 40th anniversary and the DVD release of "Avatar" with a pledge to plant a million trees around the world by the end of 2010.

Waste Management Inc.; PepsiCo; Solid Waste Task Force; MPAA.

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