Paying With Plastic: Recycling Earns Public Transit Fares in China
Remember in the opening scenes of Back To The Future: Part II when Doc Brown frantically rummages through a couple of garbage cans for fuel? When the film was released in 1989, the idea of using biodegradable materials as fuel for vehicles was entertaining but wildly science fiction. And while scientists still haven’t made available the means to convert everyday garbage into a reusable fuel source, steps have been taken in the fight to reduce carbon footprints and environmental impacts in societies around the world.
For instance, China — which has experienced widespread legacy pollution — recently debuted recycling-for-payment programs in busy subway stations in Beijing. The initiative saw the installation of recycling machines which accept plastic bottles as payment. Passengers receive credit ranging from 5 to 15 cents per bottle, which are then applied toward rechargeable subway cards. The first of the machines officially opened for use in Shaoyaoju station, Beijing in December 2012.
According to a report from The Guardian, more than 100 machines will be put in place in the coming years. Incom, a state-owned resources recovery company, is responsible for the implementation of the machines. Incom currently undertakes processing tens of thousands of plastic bottles every year and hopes the new machines will help reduce the amount of refuse discarded on streets and in public areas.
According to GreenGeeks, one recycled plastic bottle produces enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for several hours. However, dissenters of the program still wonder if the machines themselves won’t increase environmental degradation with the amount of energy necessary to operate them citing that the process to melt down and reconstitute plastics requires energy and may degrade the quality of the recycled product.
Rather than having to implement and organize costly task forces to retrieve discarded garbage, China hopes to limit federal spending on resources recovery by collecting plastic bottles directly from citizens with the use of the subway recycling machines. To lend perspective, a figure shown by Clean Air Council states that California spends roughly $25 million transporting plastic bags to dumps and an additional $8.5 million collecting these plastic bags from the streets annually.
Eventually, Incom would like to see the recycling-for-payment machines installed along every subway line as well as bus stops and other public means of transportation, such as parking spots in commercial and residential areas.
Author: By Chad W. Lutz
Forget Tokens: Commuters Can Now Pay Subway Fare by Recycling
Beijing has gotten plenty of bad press for its environmental crisis. The city was so polluted in January that officials created a fake sun billboard when the real one was obscured. But a successful recycling project in the city proves that residents are pretty gung ho about environmental issues, especially when they get free subway fare or mobile phone minutes in exchange for recycling.
Chinese recycling company Incom first set up 10 of the machines, which resemble a typical vending machine in a Beijing subway station, back in 2012, reports Recycling Today. The machines allow commuters to insert a plastic soda or water bottle in exchange for a transit pass or mobile phone credit. The machine has a sensor that is able to scan each bottle and determine how much it’s worth. Commuters can get 5 to 15 cents per bottle. Thanks to the program’s success, over the past two years the company has expanded installation of the machines to 34 subway stations. Now it plans to expand the recycling program to operate in 100 stations.
These reverse vending machines make it a snap for the public to chuck whatever plastic bottle garbage they’re toting as they commute, and they seem to be growing in popularity. Sydney launched a similar program in July. City officials put their Envirobank machines in areas with plenty of foot traffic and rewarded recyclers with everything from bus passes to food truck vouchers.
As in the Sydney program, Beijing officials hope to put the new machines in the busiest stations, particularly those close to popular tourist destinations. More than 15,000 tons of plastic bottles are recycled every year in Beijing, according to officials. With the expansion of the Incom machines, that amount is expected to skyrocket.Source: Takepart.com August 29, 2014
Author: By Liz Dwyer
Staff Writer Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications.
She was previously education editor at GOOD.
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