RecycleBank: A Rewards Program For Recycling

We are surrounded by rewards programs. I have a club card to shop at the Safeway grocery store, where I can buy some soda with “Coke Rewards” points, and I can also earn United frequent flier miles based on my total purchase amount. Finally, I pay for everything with a credit card that gets me cash back.

Now, here’s a rewards program to help us recycle more. With RecycleBank, each participating household gets a recycle bin with a computer chip that helps you track how much you recycle. The more you recycle, the more points you earn, which can be redeemed for purchases at stores like CVS pharmacy and Home Depot. You can earn up to $540 annually.

The municipality wins as well, because now there is less waste being sent to landfills, which lowers their costs dramatically. Both RecycleBank’s income and the consumer rewards come from these savings. According to this Time article, recycling rates in one of the first Philadelphia neighborhoods that RecycleBank served rose from 7% to 90% in a matter of months.

Not a bad idea at all! I agree that most people like the idea of recycling, but many of us could use a push in our busy lives. The only catch, really, is that even though are expanding, there are still only a relatively limited number of participating cities. See if yours is on the list.


  1. Our city already collects recycling, only we get to pay for the priviledge. The recycling can is actually larger than the trash can you receive, and they recycle a wide range of items. We have a per can fee charged whenever you buy a bottled beverage, unfortunately that means people rifle through your recycling and trash to collect cans. It drives me nuts.

  2. Money Beagle says:

    Our city just started this program this week. They picked our trash up on Tuesday but haven’t yet added any points to our account, so I’m anxious to see how it all works out!

  3. smurfett says:

    too many people dig through our recylcing to actually make it work. If only I lived in the suburbs.

  4. This is fascinating! My city/state is not participating right now though….

    It is a bit ironic though, that the rewards encourage you to consume more. Nevertheless, the benefits far outweigh the left-wing cynic in me.

  5. Not in our area either but too many people already go through our recycling bins anyways…

  6. I have RecycleBank and love it. I have never claimed my points, but I have a real can and barely ever have any trash. If you think about it – almost everything that you get rid of is recyclable. If I composted too, then I would barely ever have any “trash”…

  7. composting is vital. you need to separate out the organic matter because it traps methane in the landfills as it decomposes. Same principal behind biofuels. Spent oils are really bad for landfills. Oakland has a composting program along with recycling. Probably some other cities do too.

    The whole redemption value programs seem extreme to me and they make it so difficult to participate, however if I lived in CA or some other state that charged me a deposit per can/bottle, I’d defititely go out of my way to get my money back.

    Jonathan, Do you return your cans/bottles to a redemption center or do you just recycle them? talk about rewards program, except they’re taking your money if you’re not willing to do the work. Maybe you’re not a big bottle/can guy. I definitely am a big can man, collecting, storing and redeeming for a few bucks here and there.

  8. RecycleBill says:

    Too bad RecycleBank is broken.

  9. Pennie_wise says:

    I lived in Maine, all cans and bottles have a deposit at the time of purchase. If you are too lazy to lug the bags back to the recycle center or (some stores have machines that total your returns) there are lots of fund raisers (PTA, ball teams, scouts) who will gladly haul your stuff in for money. I moved to Ohio into an area where the hillbillies throw everything out of their windows. In an environmental
    sense, it helps to have an incentive to clean up your act. $0.30 per six pack is your loss if you don’t take them back. A can crusher will reduce them to small flat portable containers. It is easy and more states should be forced into doing it.

  10. RichieRich says:

    I live in Michigan, a 10 cent deposit state. I do a lot of driving for my job. You see people everywhere walking along highways picking up empties to get the deposit. Not only does it make environmental sense, but it save the government money by having less garbage to clean up off the highways. There is a guy that raids the garbage cans at the quarter car wash by my house. Everyday around dusk he walks through and pulls them out of the trash bins. They would be going into a landfill if he didn’t do it every day. And he gets the cash deposit across the street at a gas station that accepts empties. I don’t think he is getting rich doing it, but every little bit helps. The plastic is way worse than the aluminum for landfills, btw.

  11. RichieRich says:

    Oh yeah, I just signed up for recycle bank. I haven’t even received by bin yet(My cross street got them today). The “rewards” seem weak, but if it attracts more recyclers then I am all for it.

  12. they say they give you points for free stuff
    don’t waste your time
    they dont

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