August 14, 2008 Issue
Chestnut Hill Local
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City to add incentives to its single-stream recycling
After announcing last month that the RecycleBank incentive-based recycling pilot program would be shut down, the Philadelphia Streets Department has revealed that it is working with the company to expand the rewards program citywide.
The announcement from the city came bundled in a letter addressed to households in Chestnut Hill and West Oak Lane that had been participating in the RecycleBank pilot program since 2005.
Signed by RecycleBank CEO and co-founder Ron Gonen and Deputy Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams, the letter served as the official announcement that the pilot program would cease as of Monday, Aug. 25.
Representatives from RecycleBank and the Streets Department began talks about a month ago to find a way to sort out the city’s technical difficulties with the program. RecycleBank’s program requires household recyclables to be weighed, which is done with an electronic arm on the collection trucks. The city has long contended that the additional time it takes to weigh the 64-gallon recycling containers would cost the city an additional $3 million a year.
As part of the recent talks, city officials visited Wilmington, Del., and Cherry Hill, N.J., where they were able to see first hand the company’s now upgraded equipment and the increased level of efficiency.
“The time it took per household in 2004 was very high,” Williams said. “Now that it’s upgraded we’ll continue to work to see if we can use it.”
Williams said the next step is to apply the improved technology to some of the city’s collection trucks to test its efficiency. Over the next few weeks, representatives from the city will continue to meet with RecycleBank and hammer out a timetable for implementation. Williams also said the city would like to test the program in other areas of the city that pose different challenges, among them South Philadelphia and West Philadelphia.
“They have narrower streets than Chestnut Hill, and so we want to see how the equipment works there,” he said.
Williams said the city’s ultimate goal is to add an incentive-based program to its single-stream platform. He said he imagined that RecycleBank would be that program. For now, the two entities will work together to ensure that the technology meets the city’s needs.
Michael D’Angelo, regional manager for RecycleBank’s Mid-Atlantic area, said the company is willing to make changes if need be.
“RecycleBank’s model has changed and adapted to market requirements,” D’Angelo said. “So that certainly is on the table.”
Moving forward, Williams said the city would continue to perform the collections, as it did throughout the pilot program. RecycleBank would be responsible for running the rewards program, monitoring participation and negotiating with the companies that provide the rewards.
Philadelphia’s pilot program was the first opportunity the company had to implement its strategy for incentive-based recycling. The 2,300 households that participated in the program received points based on the amount of recyclables they put out each week. The points were redeemable for coupons to local and national stores.
Lisa Pomerantz, spokesperson for RecycleBank, said the company is pleased with the city’s recent interest in working toward a citywide program.
“Philly is a special place for us,” she said. “We started here, we were founded here.”
For the immediate future, RecycleBank clients will receive a city-issued recycling bin to use after Aug. 25. Clients can continue to access their RecycleBank accounts and redeem reward points for six months.Contact Associate Editor Jennifer Katz at 215-248-8804 or email@example.com.