Although the concept of recycling is nothing new to Americans, the U.S. recycling rate still hovers around 34 percent. And even with numerous campaigns to encourage Americans to recycle – from clearer labels to efforts to make recycling hip – the issue still plagues companies and consumers alike. Yet, according to the 2014 Cone Communications Recycling in the Home Survey, the top motivator to get people to the bin is through earning rewards, money or incentives. Now, one initiative in the Netherlands does just that – incentivizing individuals to recycle by providing free cups of coffee or discounts on yoga classes.
WASTED, a pilot program running in Amsterdam's Noord district, is tapping into consumers' top motivation to recycle: incentives. The project centers on the WASTED Rewards System, giving away WASTED Coins in exchange for bags of recyclables. Participants earn rewards by attaching a unique QR code to each bag, and when the bag makes it to the recycling center, coins are sent out in return. The coins can be used at participating stores around the Noord district and exchanged for items like a free coffee, discounted acupuncture treatments or wine with purchase of a dinner. Meanwhile, recyclables will be turned into plastic public infrastructures – such as benches, tables, furniture, playground objects, litter bins and retaining walls. In a recent survey of WASTED users, 52 percent of respondents said they had "improved their waste disposal habits as a result of using WASTED and 23 percent said they had reduced their total plastics consumption."
As companies continue to think about the best ways to encourage responsible disposal of products, the WASTED project can be used as a clear case study of the value of incentives in this process. Although 42 percent of Americans say their concern for the environment is the primary reason they recycle, it's clear there must be added motivation to get individuals to follow-through. By inviting local business to participate in the program and providing incentives everyone can enjoy, WASTED created a successful pilot with implications for all types of recycling initiatives.