This City Allows You To Pay For Subway Rides With Plastic Bottles


The city of Beijing has installed several “reverse” vending machines at subway stations which accept empty water bottles, the most typical plastic waste, as payment and give you extra mobile phone minutes or public transportation credit. This brilliant idea by the administration of Beijing has been encouraging people to recycle more for rewards.

This City Allows You To Pay For Subway Rides With Plastic Bottles
Wikimedia Commons/X5 Retail Group

When someone inserts a bottle into the machine, it scans the bottle to assess the value of the plastic, and then gives you rewards. These rewards are usually worth anywhere between 5 to 15 cents. They depend on the quality and number of bottles which are inserted into the machine. Tourists who do not need these rewards for local use have the option to simply donate their plastic bottles. The machine crushes the bottle to a third of its original size.

This City Allows You To Pay For Subway Rides With Plastic Bottles

In a 2014 interview, Liu Zuesongthe, the deputy general manager of Incom recycling company revealed that the company planted more than 400 such machines across Beijing, “including subway lines, schools, residential areas, bus stops and shopping malls” to effectively manage plastic waste and littering, and plans to make the number 5,000 in coming years.

The idea is to place the machine in high-traffic or touristy areas so that they are continuously engaged. Therefore, touristy areas like the Temple of Heaven, where almost 60,000 people cross through every day, has been a hotspot of waste management.

“We use the machines to bypass informal collectors. These returned bottles are being sorted, washed, processed and eventually reborn as bottles again”, said the deputy general.

The Beijing government states that about 15,000 plastic bottles are recycled every year and thus, the idea of the reverse vending machine is expected to “exponentially increase” this number. Next the government also plans to plant these machines in educational institutes to instill the habit of recycling in children.

This is a rather appealing incentive and attracts people to recycle the plastic in their hands. Australia, too, adapted this idea and placed several reverse vending machines across Sydney that only fit water bottles or soda containers. This ensures that people do not throw in non-recyclable garbage, making it difficult to process recyclable garbage. It also gives rewards like food truck vouchers, bus passes and party tickets.

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