Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Plan to Reward Recyclers with Free Month of Trash Pickup Takes Shape

By Christina Georgiou

A trash collection truck seen making the rounds recently
in Easton. The city hopes to raise recycling rates through
a program that will reward those who recycle with a free
month of trash pickup.
Those who regularly recycle in the City of Easton will be eligible for a credit equal to one month of trash hauling charges, starting next year, city officials confirmed Tuesday evening.

The city plans to become a Recyclebank "partner" and the credit will be issued to those who accrue enough points through the program, which Easton has participated in for the last two years or so, said Easton Public Works Director David Hopkins.

To be eligible for the credit, worth $33 per household or $22.80 for seniors (who pay a discounted trash rate), residents will have to sign up with Recyclebank. Hopkins suggested that the credit be offered in exchange for 750 points, which offers discounts and freebies in exchange for accrued points.

While many participants might earn more points, only one month's credit per year will be granted by the city, he said.

"For our residents, it's probably going to be the most valuable reward on the website," Hopkins said.

Some city council members suggested the level be raised, and that points accrued prior to implementing the trash bill rebate program not be eligible for the program.

Denise Diorio McVeigh, account manager for the company, said there's no way Recyclebank can track when points are accrued, so making points earned before the city's implementation of the credit for a month of trash hauling ineligible isn't possible.

"Our system isn't set up to do that," she said.

Hopkins noted that while many city council members have accrued more than 1,000 points annually in their accounts, the program doesn't take into account individual recycling amounts, but averages how much is recycled in a given area and awards points based on those numbers. Therefore, those in  some neighborhoods regularly receive fewer points than others.

"We believe that's an amount anyone will be able to achieve," he said. "I felt we don't want to make it unattainable for some areas of the city. Some areas have more tonnage than others."

Residents don't have to have Internet access, however, to participate. Recyclebank allows participants to sign up and check their point status by phone, and rewards may also be downloaded to a smartphone app.

The credit for a free month of trash hauling will be able to be printed out and the coupon sent to the city with a trash bill payment, redeemed via a smartphone app, or participants can call Recyclebank and the company will arrange the credit with the city, Hopkins said.

He expects the new incentive will entice more residents to participate in the program too. Anyone with a unique address can participate.

Currently, there are about 8,000 households on the city's trash contract, Hopkins said. Of those, 4,200 have the RFID tags Recyclebank uses to track recycling rates, and about 1,300 are signed up for the recycling rewards program.

"We know we can improve on our (trash) diversion rate," he said. "Of those in the system, only 1,300 are signed up. If you're not registered, you're not earning points."

Under the new city trash contracts, which will go into effect at the beginning of 2014, solid waste will go to Chrin Landfill at a rate of $40.44 per ton, and Waste Management will accept, process, and market the city's collected recyclable materials, offering an 80 percent rebate to the city after processing costs of $100 per ton. The new deals are expected to save the city $1.2 million annually.

The city also hopes to garner more state grant money for its recycling efforts too, he said, noting that in past years, such money has paid for public works equipment, such as leaf blowers and construction of the city's recycling drop off center.

Some council members asked whether Recyclebank would try to include more local businesses in the program and said many of the rewards aren't offered locally or aren't very useful to them. About 11 local businesses are listed as offering rewards through the Recyclebank program, though one is closed and another does not currently have any offers listed.

"I think that's the reason we have so many points," said Councilwoman El Warner, who said she has about 1,700 unredeemed points.

She added that she'd like to see rewards from more local Downtown restaurants.

"We recently signed on The Crayola Experience," said McVeigh. "We're continuously trying to work on our rewards partners."

Councilman Roger Ruggles asked if Recyclebank would consider finding partners that would allow residents to donate points to local non-profit organizations working to better the community.

"Is there any way we could donate our points to a community organization, like the Easton Area Community Center food program?" he asked.

McVeigh said that while Recyclebank did once have such a program, it was underused by participants and cumbersome to maintain.

Ruggles suggested points might be donated through local supermarkets, which could then offer food or credit to purchase food to local programs.

"Some of the issues around supermarkets is they're low (profit) margin," McVeigh said.

She suggested those wishing to donate to local organization might redeem points for things like a half gallon of orange juice and then donate the goods directly.

McVeigh also suggested local schools apply to Recyclebank's "Green Schools' program and residents could donate their points to that. Schools that participate in an approved environmental project can receive up to $2,500 toward their effort when Recyclebank participants donate their points to them.

Hopkins said an advantage of the Recyclebank website is the education it offers on the benefits of recycling, and having more participants in the city will mean more residents reading that material.

"Our hope is that we see a surge in subscriptions," he said. "We're hoping more people will visit the website and absorb the educational stuff."

The city's solicitor is working out details of the contract between the city and Recyclebank for the city to offer a credit for a free month of trash pickup, Hopkins said, and it's hoped the city council will be able to approve it later this month.

"I'm confident we can get it on the agenda for October 22," he added.

For more about the Recyclebank rewards program or to sign up, visit the company's website at

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