On behalf of Waste Management I offer thoughts on a new program called Greenopolis from Anthony Zolezzi, Greenopolis’ Creative Director. — Wes Muir
North America is swimming in a sea of recyclables, both literally and figuratively. Because while many of the bottles and cans we use every day are being put to reuse, most are still ending up on the sides of roads, in our oceans and taking up space in our landfills. According to stats from Earth911:
• Americans buy 29.8 billion water bottles every year
• Plastic accounts for 4 percent of US energy consumption
• Tossing away one aluminum can wastes as much energy as half a can of gasoline.
These are some pretty incredible numbers, and say nothing about all the other materials currently going to waste, like food, glass and paper. But while the problem is large, so is the opportunity, and right now is a great time for change. With more people becoming aware of their footprints and with new technologies coming out at every turn, now is when the next generation of recyclers is making their mark.
A new way to recycle
The need for innovation is the main reason the Greenopolis Recycling System was launched just about two years ago, which I helped develop. In creating Greenopolis, we established an interactive platform that uses both physical and digital technology to make recycling easy, fun and rewarding for its users. Today, with more than 30,000 Facebook fans and 60,000 Twitter followers, Greenopolis is firmly taking its place as a leading next generation recycler.
To give you a sense of how the technology works, here’s a quick step-by-step:
• People deposit recyclables into digital kiosks located at high-traffic locations across the United States (we are soon looking to expand in Canada)
• Points are given for every item recycled
• Points are redeemable on greenopolis.com for a variety of discounts from restaurants, theaters and retail establishments
• Users may also go online to track their progress and learn about sustainable living
The goal of Greenopolis is to use both digital and physical platforms to advance awareness and increase recycling. And while there are a lot of programs that allow people to deposit bottles and cans, Greenopolis is one of the few that actually rewards its users for recycling. And not only that, it rewards people for participating on its website (Greenopolis.com), playing Oceanopolis (its Facebook game) and using a number of its other social networking properties (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
The web portal we operate is loaded with sustainable facts and tips on living a lifestyle that’s good for the environment. The rewards program is expanding—the things people can earn vary from zip code to zip code, but range from big-named companies to local mom-and-pops.
Since launching this technology, we have captured over 5 million items and distributed more than 9 million points, and this is growing everyday. On average, a single Greenopolis Recycling Kiosk captures 285 plastic bottles and 185 aluminum cans a day, which means that in one year, one kiosk will offset more than 400 thousand pounds of CO2. That’s making an impact.
The program, however, isn’t stopping there. We are expanding into new areas to capture even more materials.
Currently Greenopolis is testing software called Scan@Home, which allows people to scan items they recycle at home to earn reward points through Greenopolis.com. The technology is simple to use and is currently being integrated into several cellular devices, including iPhones and Androids. Imagine earning rewards for something you (hopefully) are already doing at home.
Another new venture, still in the early stages but with lots of potential, is toy recycling, which recently had a pilot event in Vancouver, British Columbia. In partnership with the Canadian Toy Association, Greenopolis launched its first ever electronic toy recycling event, where we basically had lines of kids returning their unwanted toys. Everything with a bar code was scanned, and while kids were given points for their participation, we also had raffles to give rewards on the spot.
Whether its bottles, cans or toys, Greenopolis represents a big step in recycling. Not only are we collecting items to reuse, but we are integrating digital software, online participation and in-person interaction. We are rewarding users and changing behaviors one bottle at a time. That’s recycling for a new generation.
Creative Director, Greenopolis