Government Technology

    Digital Communities
    Industry Members

  • Click sponsor logos for whitepapers, case studies, and best practices.
  • McAfee

Cities Use RFID and Bar Codes in Recycling Incentive Program

November 11, 2009 By

To increase recycling in municipalities, sometimes it takes more than just encouraging citizens to be environmentally friendly. Incentive-based recycling may have a strange ring to it -- especially to the ears of city officials -- but that's what some cities are doing to discourage citizens from throwing away recyclables. By reducing the amount of waste cities must dump at landfills, they save money in tipping fees while encouraging residents to be environmental stewards. Tipping fees are charges paid to landfills based on the volume of waste.

Adding an incentive to recycling was the idea Ron Gonen had in 2005 when he co-founded RecycleBank -- a program that tracks how many pounds a household recycles in order to offer incentives, like coupons and discounts at local businesses and restaurants, to residents.

Gonen, also RecycleBank's CEO, said the inspiration behind the program was developing a business model that showed people that being environmentally conscious was not just the right thing to do, but also a good way to save money.

RecycleBank installs bar codes or radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on recycling carts, which enable them to be scanned and linked to the coordinating address. Participating cities' recycling pickup trucks are retrofitted with a mechanical arm that includes a scale and bar code/RFID scanner. "It picks up the cart, reads the chip, identifies how much your home recycled, and that's translated into RecycleBank Points," Gonen said. "They can log on to our Web site [], and it's just like looking at your bank statement: It tells you how much they recycled each week and how many RecycleBank Points they earned."

Gonen said more than 75 cities participate in the program and service was recently launched in the UK.

Recycling Evolves

In June, Westland, Mich., implemented RecycleBank as its first curbside recycling program and has already found a significant increase in how much its citizens recycle. "The last couple years we have had a drop-off recycling center program that was averaging about 90 tons a month of recyclables, and that had pretty much leveled off," said the city's mayor, William Wild. "Our first month with RecycleBank picking up recyclables at the curb, that number went up to 550 tons."

However, Westland launched curbside recycling and RecycleBank simultaneously so no data exists regarding what tonnage curbside recycling would have generated without RecycleBank. Wild added that the city pays about $30 per ton to landfill trash, and in the first month the city diverted about one-third of its solid waste from the landfill.

Wild was looking for a new recycling program because single-stream recycling -- where different recyclables, like glass, plastic and paper, can be mixed in one container -- became available in Westland. "I knew that it was easy now, and I knew that we needed some way to give our residents an incentive to do it. And that was where the RecycleBank program really helped us out," he said. "Also what was beautiful about it was that we're able to give our residents an incentive to recycle and help our local economy."

Westland deployed approximately 28,000 bar-coded recycling carts to single-family households. In the first month, 99 percent of the possible participating residents registered their carts with RecycleBank, he said.

The program tracks the amount recycled for each pickup route and averages the number per household to evenly distribute the points to all participating residences on the route. Wild said this is to garner maximum participation. "I wanted folks to be rewarded just for participating," he said. "What I didn't want was for a senior citizen who maybe puts out five pounds a week and gets 2.5 RecycleBank Points per pound to be discouraged by a family of five next

| More


Add Your Comment

You are solely responsible for the content of your comments. We reserve the right to remove comments that are considered profane, vulgar, obscene, factually inaccurate, off-topic, or considered a personal attack.

In Our Library

White Papers | Exclusives Reports | Webinar Archives | Best Practices and Case Studies
Digital Cities & Counties Survey: Best Practices Quick Reference Guide
This Best Practices Quick Reference Guide is a compilation of examples from the 2013 Digital Cities and Counties Surveys showcasing the innovative ways local governments are using technological tools to respond to the needs of their communities. It is our hope that by calling attention to just a few examples from cities and counties of all sizes, we will encourage further collaboration and spark additional creativity in local government service delivery.
Wireless Reporting Takes Pain (& Wait) out of Voting
In Michigan and Minnesota counties, wireless voting via the AT&T network has brought speed, efficiency and accuracy to elections - another illustration of how mobility and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology help governments to bring superior services and communication to constituents.
Why Would a City Proclaim Their Data “Open by Default?”
The City of Palo Alto, California, a 2013 Center for Digital Government Digital City Survey winner, has officially proclaimed “open” to be the default setting for all city data. Are they courageous or crazy?
View All