How Amsterdam rewards its citizens who recycle plastic waste

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Early in 2015 a Dutch non-profit organisation, Cities Foundation, set up a scheme to recycle plastic waste in Amsterdam. The pilot project, known as Wasted, runs in the Noord district of the city and encourages residents to participate in plastic recycling by offering them discounts at local businesses in exchange for plastic waste that can be recycled.

Householders and local residents who sign up to the scheme are supplied with recycling bags for the waste plastic. Each bag has a unique code so that the organisers of the scheme can credit the household with the correct rewards when the bags have been collected. Every bag of plastic recycling collected earns one green coin for the householder.

Initially, the bags were collected by Cities Foundation staff, but the city council has now taken over the weekly collection although the collection of recyclable materials from domestic properties is not usually offered. The council has stated that it is keen to support the scheme and to link the management of waste with support for local entrepreneurs.

Over 700 households now participate in the scheme which is subsidised by Amsterdam’s city council. In addition to sending more waste plastics for recycling, the scheme has raised awareness of the volume of plastic that is consumed. In a recent survey, 52% of users of the Wasted scheme claimed to have improved how they recycle or dispose of waste whilst 23% have reduced the amount of plastic they produce each week as a result of their increased awareness.

The green plastic coins with which the participants are rewarded are manufactured from recycled plastics and are sent out to the householders in the post. There are also plans to develop digital currency and to involve online businesses in the scheme.

One local business that is already involved in the scheme is Al Ponte, a café situated close to the city’s Centraal station. The busy and popular café, which benefits from views over the river, is popular with commuters travelling to and from the ferry port. Each green coin entitles the user to a free second coffee. Al Ponte’s owner, Silvia Salani views the scheme as positive for her business since it has helped her grow, with those who come into the café with friends for a free coffee returning and paying for their beverages. Being part of the scheme has also improved Silvia’s standing in the community.

Other benefits on offer in exchange for the coins include 50 percent off tyre repairs for 3 coins at the local cycle shop, Beekhoven Bikes Fiat specialist and discounts on services such as reiki treatments and accountancy support. There are around thirty retailers participating in the scheme and rewards even include discounts on groceries.

Although research has yet to establish a definitive advantage by using reward schemes rather than simply publicising the recycling schemes in encouraging people to participate in recycling plastics, this reward scheme is certainly successful in creating awareness of the problem and possibly engaging those who previously had no interest in recycling.

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