Monday, March 29, 2010

Recycling initiatives offer tangible benefits

By Wendy Koch • USA TODAY • March 29, 2010 Americans are being paid to save energy and recycle. A growing number of private and public programs are offering cash, gift cards and other rewards such as cupcakes and massages for eco-friendly behavior. "We definitely see this as a trend," said Jennifer Berry of Earth911, a group that runs a recycling database. "When you give people a reward for positive behavior, they're more likely to participate." The incentives go beyond federal tax credits and rebates for energy-efficient home upgrades: • U.S. cities are partnering with New York-based RecycleBank to give people points based on how much they recycle. Points can be redeemed at local stores, most commonly $10 grocery gift cards. They also get discounts on eBay purchases. "We reward people for doing the right thing," said Ron Gonen, who founded the company in 2004. Los Angeles announced last month that it would try the program with 15,000 households for a year. That boosts participation to 300 cities in 26 states. • Thousands of households in all 50 states have registered to earn reward points for energy conservation through Earth Aid, a company based in Washington. Its software tracks utility bills and, based on savings, offers points to be redeemed at stores. "It's icing on the cake," Chief Executive Officer Ben Bixby said, because participants also benefit by lowering their utility bills. RecycleBank is starting a similar program in Chicago. • CVS Pharmacy gives customers $1 vouchers for every four times they skip using a plastic bag. Many grocery stores offer 5 cents for every reusable bag customers carry. • Companies such as are paying people for used gadgets such as MP3 players, which they recycle if the items can't be resold. • Two states, New York and Connecticut, expanded their "bottle bills" last year. Bills in 11 states pay customers to return used bottles, typically a nickel each. Berry says those states have higher recycling rates.

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