Entire forests leveled, destroying precious ecosystems in the process. The endless mounds of coal needed to power smelting processes and the subsequent ozone-melting emissions. Landfills that expand unabated, a slow creep from the edge of town that gets closer and closer to home.
So I’ve always recycled. But it wasn’t until I started working at Recycling Perks, a subsidiary of TFC Recycling, that I was made aware of the economic impact trash has on our communities. Recycling costs municipalities up to 50% less than dealing with waste. In this new strained economic reality that’s money that ends up being spent on schools and critical services like fire and police. The economic impact of recycling extends well beyond just saving cities money; according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, “the recycling industry generates $87 billion in yearly economic impacts and is responsible for about 500,000 jobs.” To wit, the recycling industry creates jobs 2:1 over standard trash removal.
In a perfect world a couple things would be happening naturally. For one, everyone would already be recycling on their own accord. Second, our governments would make it the law of the land that everyone recycles–because for what greater purpose do we have laws, if not to protect the land we need for our sustenance?
But in the absence of that dreamland, the best case scenario I see is finding a way to incentivize the average person to recycle. Which is exactly what Recycling Perks does, and why I’m proud to work for them. It’s a very simple program: Register your cart on the website, automatically collect points every time you put out your cart on recycling day, and then redeem those points for free things and discounts from local businesses. It works, too; according to our internal tracking, folks are 20% more likely to recycle if they’re in the program. In Norfolk alone since Recycling Perks was implemented roughly 100 tons each month is being diverted to the recycling plant that otherwise would have been burned or dumped into a landfill.
My favorite part of the job so far has been engaging with the community in fun ways. A group of Perks users got together and planted a tree at the Chesapeake Arboretum. We held classes at Handsome Biscuit to learn their special recipe, and at Cogans to learn how to make their famous pizza pie. We made a pro-recycling spot with the marching band from Booker T. Washington High School, brought food trucks into the neighborhoods, and even spent some time at Start Norfolk toying around with developing an app for the program. I’m a social media geek, so manning the Recycling Perks Facebook page has been a trip too.
I wrote this blog to let you all know what I’ve been up to since stepping aside as editor-in-chief of AltDaily, but also in hopes that you get involved. If you’re a resident of Norfolk, Suffolk, or Chesapeake, sign up here. It’s free, and you can expect to redeem up to $30 a month in freebies and discounts at local businesses for your trouble.
We’re also looking for local businesses who want to support the cause of recycling in our community. To be a part of Recycling Perks a business just needs to be willing to extend a special offer to recyclers. In return, they keep 100% of the revenue, get free publicity via our newsletter (which reaches 25,000 locals twice a month)—all at zero cost, ever.
You all know I’m an idealist who believes in a better way. But we’ve also got to be realistic about how to steer our society to a sustainable place. By incentivizing saving the world, Recycling Perks has taken a significant step in that direction.