When in Rome? Recycle.

Planning a trip to Rome? Bring along some plastic bottles to recycle.

When in Rome? Well, why not bring along a few plastic bottles, about 30 to be exact. When recycled, these buy you a standard ticket on Rome’s local Bus and Subway public transit network (ATAC).

How can this be? Recycling pays your way. To promote recycling and cut down on litter in the streets, the Rome Transit network has introduced a new DRS styled (Deposit Refund Scheme) initiative called ‘Ricicli+Viaggi’, (Recycle+Travel). People can bring plastic bottles to any metro station with a recycling machine, insert them in the machine and collect credits for travel. The machine crushes and sorts them and issues digital credits towards travel fares. With a dedicated Smartphone App and barcode scanner, no cash is involved.

Unlike the planned DRS in Scotland, where 15p/20p will be refunded per bottle/can, the Roman DRS machines offer just 5 cents credit per bottle. But rail tickets are also cheaper there. So it will take just 30 bottles to earn a standard €1.50 fare. (Istanbul averages 28 bottles for its system). That’s a lot of bottles to bring to the metro station when you’re rushing around but don’t underestimate the power of positive rewards. (Think of it like the loyalty schemes used by coffee shops where every 9th coffee is on the house). A recent BBC video about the initiative shows people waiting patiently in line at such recycling machines. What’s so bad about saving money and recycling? Watch it here.

The Recycle+Travel project is the first such one in Italy, and is similar to ones already established in Beijing and Istanbul. (Beijing subway system alone has over 3000 collection points.) Watch the video here.

Three stops to start.

The Recycle+Travel Pilot project is just at the early stage right now. DRS machines are available in just three metro stations – Cipro, Piramide, and San Giovanni – but if they prove to be successful over the next 12 months, the pilot project will be expanded. further, just like in Beijing.

The hope, of course, is that such recycling habits will stick and encourage people to be more mindful of where they throw their trash when they’re not lined up for a metro journey.

There is something deeply satisfying about saving money and recycling.

It’s a win-win system in which travellers recycle, Rome’s ATAC builds customer loyalty, and the travellers’ virtuous zero-waste behaviour is rewarded with travel credits. Bellissimo!

We hope that such recycling habits will stick with the Romans as they do elsewhere. We encourage people to be more mindful of what disposable bottles they buy and avoid the purchase if possible. If you do have recyclable bottles be mindful of where you recycle them. They could help you travel for free someday soon!

Now imagine if we could do this in Ireland and there’s no reason why not. (e.g. Dart, Luas ticket credits). Let’s extend the credits beyond just travel credits. How about entertainment credits, like cinema ticket credits, coffee shop tokens, book tokens, music shop points, sports events….the list goes on. With a smartphone app and scanner enabled reverse vending machines(RVM) deployed, the sky’s the limit.

Would you take your recyclables to a bus or train station to trade in for public transportation or other credits? Have you got the bottle?

Who’s got the bottle?

If only our Government would catch up with us and start delivering projects rather than commissioning endless reports and feasibility studies such as the Bottle DRS feasibility review Minister Richard Bruton is dithering over at present.

We have the bottles, many many of them, but do our lagging leaders?