Recycling rewards neighborhoods with coupons

Katie McClurg

As the effects of global warming become more evident, environmental awareness continues to grow and many new programs, including Allied Waste’s RecycleBank, have developed. Most of the new programs encourage environmentally friendly lifestyles and promote recycling.

With the RecycleBank program in Eden Prairie just having gone into effect at the beginning of October, the results have already been greater than expected: “The response has been outstanding: containers are already overflowing and recycling has increased by over twenty percent,” said Twin Cities Allied Waste representative Rich Hirstein.

The newest program to hit the Twin Cities is the first of its kind. Since its conception, the Recyclebank has been unique, foremost because it was created just two years ago by a Pennsylvanian college student. “At the time the young founder didn’t realize the impact this was going to make; this program is huge and this is just the beginning,” said Hirstein.

After becoming hugely successful in Pennsylvania, the developers wanted to further their efforts and increase the benefits by extending the program to a larger scale and partnering with the national company of Allied Waste. The Twin Cities is the first place that RecycleBank program will begin nationally. “They decided beginning the expansion of this innovative program would be ideal here in the Twin Cities because of the growing and thriving community,” said Hirstein.

RecycleBank is a rewards program that uses an ID chip placed in recycling containers to measure the amount of waste being recycled. The amount recycled in each neighborhood is calculated and then divided by the number of houses, and based on this, neighborhoods earn their rewards. For every pound of material recycled, members earn 2.5 RecycleBank points, “It’s like a checking account,” said Hirstein, “they earn points that can be spent at over 400 different retailers.”

One hundred points is equal to about $10 in savings. Members can save up their coupons or use their discounts at one of the many retailers including popular places such as Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bath and Body Works, Borders Books, Caribou Coffee, and AMC Movie Theaters. Also, smaller businesses such as BeGreen, Honest Tea, Nirvana Chocolates, and North Star Home Fitness have become involved. “Both big and small businesses who partner with us also benefit from more costumers that may not have shopped there previously,” said Hirstein.

In addition to the huge impact the program has on the environment, it helps businesses earn more customers, instills new behaviors and values in future generations, and helps that current community. Not only can participants save their rewards to use on purchases, rewards can also be donated to charities or schools at the choice of the costumer: “The benefit of the point system is that it allows for them to be transferred or donated to almost any organization or school,” said Hirstein.
Since the Eden Prairie waste management system uses an open-hauling system, which allows individual residents to contract with the vendor of their choice, only households that have Allied Waste as their vendor participate in the RecycleBank program. Leslie Stovring, the Environmental Coordinator for Eden Prairie, said, “Although the city doesn’t mandate this program, its positive results are undeniable.”
The residents who are new to the program are enjoying its benefits. Eden Prairie resident Mary Enger said, “Joining the [RecycleBank] program is such a simple way for people to start getting involved with larger environmental issues.”

Serving both people who participate mainly for the rewards and people who just want to do their part in supporting the cause, the RecycleBank program is a well-rounded program that continues to give back. As Enger said, “RecycleBank is just the first step in getting people involved: I further my small impact by either donating my points to other environmental organizations or I use them to buy organic and environmentally friendly products.”

The program not only strives to better the current situation but also looks to have a long lasting impact. “If people don’t start getting involved, the future generations are going to be facing some serious problems, so it’s our duty to do all that we can to change our behaviors now and teach future generations to be environmentally aware,” said Enger.

In an attempt to further the impact RecycleBank has on our environment, new plans, including extending the program to businesses, are being worked on collaboratively by Allied Waste Services and RecycleBank.