Philadelphia shows it pays to recycle

Thu Dec 3, 2009 4:46pm EST
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By Jon Hurdle

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Life!) - Philadelphia residents are learning that it pays to recycle.

The City of Brotherly Love launched what officials said on Thursday was America's largest program to give residents a financial incentive to recycle paper, plastic, glass and aluminum.

Residents can earn points for the amount of recyclables collected in trucks that have special sensors to weigh the material. Points are accumulated by each neighborhood and divided equally among participating households whose members can exchange the points for coupons and gift certificates at local businesses.

Officials said giving people an incentive to recycle will significantly increase the proportion of waste that does not go into a landfill and save the city millions of dollars in landfill fees.

"It's an initiative to put real money into the hands of Philadelphians when they really need it," said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter at a ceremony to launch the program.

Philadelphia Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson said the city pays $65 a ton to dispose of trash in a landfill, and just 33 cents a ton for recycled material. When the economy recovers, the city can expect to get paid for recyclable material, as it did before the recession drove down the price of many recyclables.

The Recycling Rewards program will begin in North Philadelphia in February and be implemented throughout the city by July when all of Philadelphia's 1.5 million people will have access to it.

The program has been funded by $708,000 in federal stimulus money which has paid for recycling boxes equipped with bar codes and truck-mounted scanners that record when a box is tipped into the back of the truck.   Continued...