Phila. expands recycling rewards program

    Philadelphia officials, community residents, and recycling advocates gathered at Progress Plaza in North Philadelphia today to kick-off of the city’s Recycling Rewards program.



    The program is based on a recent pilot project in Mt. Airy, Germantown, Chestnut Hill and West Oak Lane. Pilot program rewarded residents for their individual recycling.

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    Residents will use their own bar-coded recycling bin and keep track of their recycling points online. But individual households won’t get credit just for what goes in their own bin.

    recycle card

    Ron Gonen: This is actually based on your route. So it’s based on your immediate neighborhood. So if you participate in recycling you’re going to be rewarded for the amount of recycleables collected in your immediate neighborhood.

    That’s Ron Gonen the CEO of RecycleBank.

    Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler says the city hopes residents will encourage their neighbors to recycle. And, she says, there’s an economic benefit.

    Cutler: The pilot program’s approach of weighing each individual recycling bin, slowed down the whole operation. It was much more expensive and labor intensive to do per household. And it’s one of the reasons that after the pilot we didn’t move forward. Because it took us a little while to figure out how to do this in a way that still rewarded recycling but that actually did not slow down our collection operation and we think we figured it out.


    Starting this month residents of Fairmount, Brewerytown, Northern Liberties and several other neighborhoods will be able to participate in the program.

    The kickoff drew plenty of people from the new Fresh Grocer store in Progress Plaza. Many didn’t know that rewards were now neighborhood based. But many people also said the difference didn’t matter much to them.

    North Philadelphian Verna Gramby stopped by the Recycling event.

    Verna Gramby lives 10 blocks away from the Plaza. She says most of her neighbors already recycle and she thinks people will recycle even more now.

    Gramby: As individuals we do the best we can, you know as individuals we do our part. We can’t worry about the other. If they don’t do their part there’s nothing we can do about it. Unless we politely ask them.

    Sandy Salzman runs the New Kensington Community Development Corporation. She says the neighborhood approach could prevent problems with the scrappers who often pull recyclables from people’s bins.

    Salzman: I certainly wouldn’t want somebody to become a vigilante watching over their cans to make sure that they get enough points for their recycling.

    Salzman says there’s been some confusion about how to sign up to get the label for the bins, but she says her group is working to inform people about how to sign up online.


    James Carter is the CEO of the Greater Brewerytown Community Development Corporation. The bumper of his red F-150 features a blue “RECYCLING sticker.” Carter says there’s any reason many people in his area are excited to participate in the incentive-based recycling program.

    Carter: Our neighborhood are low and moderate income families. If you can $5, $10, $15 or you can get a product for a little or nothing. I think everybody will be happy about that. Especially in this day and time. That’s a few dollars, nickels and dimes that can be spent on something else.

    City officials say the incentive-based recycling program will expand month-by-month to other neighborhoods across the city.

    The program is expected to be citywide by July.

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