Exchanging trash for subway tickets in China

Beverage companies hate them, but time and again it’s been shown that states that mandate financial rewards for recycling enjoy much higher recycling rates. People love money. Fact. In the U.S. there are only a handful of states that offer these “bottle bills” and it’s still a pain in the butt process (collect cans, schlep to redemption center, wait in line for payment).

In Beijing, they’ve come up with a similar scheme that delivers the instant gratification people crave. Using reverse vending machines, subway riders can offset their traveling costs by recycling plastic bottles. Just insert bottle, wait while it’s crushed, and boom! the passenger receives a small credit on their commuter pass.

Image via Beijing International

Installed at the Shaoyaoju Station of Beijing Subway Line 10 in late December 2012, the recycling machine program is still in its testing phase. Unlike American bottle bill programs, the machines are conveniently located and provide an instant reward. It’s less than two cents per bottle, but there’s no limit to how many can be redeemed. If you wanted to stand their all day feeding it plastic bottles you could, although other passengers might get upset.

In China’s capital city, the subway is a main form of transportation for those who don’t own a car or just don’t want to wait in hour-long traffic snarls. By providing an instant credit on their Public Tranport One Cards, the recycling machines encourage people to recycle plastic waste AND utilize alternative transportation. A win-win.

Although still in the trial stage, the company that makes the machines is confident that they will be a hit. There are plans to install a total of 3,000 such machines across the city, including schools, residential areas, bus stops and shopping malls.

* Beth Buczynski, EarthTechling