Cities Use RFID and Bar Codes in Recycling Incentive Program/Photo courtesy of RecycleBank Cities Use RFID and Bar Codes in Recycling Incentive Program Photo courtesy of RecycleBank

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

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Elaine Rundle  |  Staff Writer