Recycling Equality

The city’s new recycling program leaves out the homeless population.

The city’s new recycling program leaves out the homeless population.

Last week, Mayor Nutter unveiled the city’s new recycling project in partnership with the Streets Department and RecycleBank.

The Philadelphia Recycling Rewards Program, which kicks off in North Philadelphia this February, will create incentives for residents to recycle more by offering points based on the amount of recyclable items the community collects to set out on trash day. Those points can then be redeemed online for funds and discounts at local stores, such as the Reading Terminal Market, as well as national chains, such as Dunkin’ Donuts.

While RecycleBank has already seen success in 2004, when it launched its campaign in Philadelphia’s West Oak Lane and Chestnut Hill neighborhoods, its partnerships with municipalities have helped to create a more widespread and better enforced message: Recycling equals rewards for both you and the environment.

The Temple News encourages students living off campus to realize they can also contribute to their neighborhood’s rewards points, benefiting the surrounding community, which students often forget they are a part of too.

The more students use their recycling bins, the more discounts they can get while shopping for groceries at ShopRite or grabbing a cup of coffee at Starbucks, both of which are places RecycleBank allows users to distribute points.

But, while the rewards program – which will be citywide by July and is expected to increase the recycling rate from 15.6 percent to 20 percent by 2011 – is positive for the city, it leaves out an important Philadelphia population: the homeless, who do not have a recycling bin to place their tracking sticker.

Not only could the homeless benefit most from the financial rewards of the program, but it could very well contribute to cleaner neighborhoods. Even if neighborhoods are motivated to earn points, the program will only curb the litter decorating the sidewalks and streets.

If there was a destination where the homeless could drop off recyclable materials and scan a sticker they could keep, some might spend more time gathering the leftover recyclable red cups and beer can remnants of weekend parties and depositing them in exchange for rewards points to buy food.

In order to register, users must visit or call 888-769-7960, but anyone can use public computers at any Free Library of Philadelphia branch to track their rewards points.

The Philadelphia Recycling Rewards Program is a worthwhile project, but to give everyone the opportunity to help the environment and reap the rewards, adding a component for the homeless is a simple and necessary step for the city to take.

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