Adopt Mass Transit Recycling Machines

reverse vending

Target: United States Federal Transit Administration

Goal: Install recycling machines that offer mass transit incentives

Vending machines that credit travelers for recycled bottles have been placed in Beijing subways. Passengers that drop their recyclable bottles receive instant credit on commuter passes, providing a universal barter system. This brilliant step toward pollution reduction should serve as an example for the United States to follow.

Imagine rushing out early in the morning, bottle of water and newspaper in hand. As is your normal routine, you briskly walk the few blocks to the station and get your morning intake of water on the way. Already running feverishly behind schedule, you realize when you arrive that you don’t have enough money for the subway. No need for extra stress this day: just drop your empty water bottle in a reverse vending machine, wait 20 seconds, and receive the credit needed to ride. This is the latest offering in Beijing where subway authorities have found a way to introduce solutions for reducing recyclable waste and providing financial incentives to subway riders.

In December of last year, two machines were installed in separate subways to help riders reduce their traveling costs. By providing on-site recycling options and immediate cash rewards, needs are being met and unnecessary waste is being eliminated. Incom, manufacturer of the machines, is responsible for recycling 50,000 of the 200,000 tons of empty bottles Beijing produces every year. The remaining 75 percent likely end up in a landfill or recycled improperly, leading to more unnecessary waste. Incom has a city-wide plan in mind where 3,000 reverse vending machines will eventually be installed. The vision is for machines to be placed in shopping malls, residential areas, schools, and bus stops.

The idea for such a machine came in Norway in 1971 when two brothers collaborated on meeting the needs of supermarkets who could not keep up with the amount of recyclable bottles being returned. The Planke brothers, Petter and Tore, engineered and installed the first machine in Asker, Norway and by the end of 1972 nearly 30 duplicates were in use. Australia launched their own line of vending machines through their Envirobank program. Machines there have the capability to accept plastic, aluminum cans, and green, brown, and clear glass.

While Beijing is still in the trial phase of the expansion, hopes remain high for waste reduction. Between December 2012 and May 2013, 30,000 bottles were collected, providing clear evidence of the program’s effectiveness. Help start a movement here on the home front that will stimulate the economy and provide for a renewable future. Urge the installation of reverse vending machines that offer practical payoffs by signing the petition below.


Dear Federal Transit Administration,

The introduction of reverse vending machines in Beijing subways offers new pathways for recycling initiatives. This “trash to treasure” service begs to be recognized in the United States. With a myriad of recycling and payment options to be considered, this issue must be explored. Mass transit coupled with payment incentives could revolutionize the recycling movement.

Follow the lead of conscientious countries around the world and install recycling machines not only in mass transit systems, but also in schools, shopping strips and malls, movie theaters, and anywhere else they would prove valuable. Get involved in an idea that is having a major impact on the world community.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Liu Changlong via Xinhua

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