Have Fun! Will Recycle: MIT Students Engage in Recycling Game

Greenbean Recycling - How to Make Recycling Fun?

Would you call recycling fun and challenging? Are you motivated by your positive environmental impact? Probably not. A Boston company called Greenbean Recycle is trying to make the act of recycling a fun, competitive and engaging game for students at MIT. Greenbean’s Reverse Vending Machines is a convenient, ‘smart’ recycling receptacle that rewards you for your actions.

Greenbean recycling improves community recycling with modern technological solutions. We show you instant recycling impact. And in Greenbean challenges teams compete for recycling superiority.

Users can deposit their recycling earnings via PayPal or elect to give to a charitable organization of their choice.

The new company, which won an innovation prize this week from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, has installed a recycling machine on MIT’s campus that is like a ‘recycling center and ATM facility’ rolled into one.

How does the Reverse Vending Machine work?

When students arrive to dump in their recyclables, they punch their phone number on a touch screen. A bar-code reader in the machine counts the number of cans, bottles and the like that the person has dropped off – and then uploads that data to Greenbean’s website. Recyclers can track their progress online, and even engage in competitions with fellow students.

Where does Greenbean Operate?

They are presently working with MIT for their pilot program with more locations to follow. The company plans to expand to Tufts and other Boston-area universities later this year and in the spring and then hit condominium dwellings.

What are the Real-World Rewards?

Greenbean has offered free gift cards for people who recycle more cans and bottles than anyone else on campus during a given time period. Their plans include giving away Red Sox tickets and other goodies, provided by sponsors, to entice people to recycle more. Greenbean’s “reverse vending machine,”, gives recyclers rewards for cans and bottles that offer return discounts – usually about 5 cents in Massachusetts. Those rewards are automatically deposited in a recycler’s PayPal account, on his or her MIT spending card or donated to a charity the person has selected online.

According to CEO Shanker Sahai,

“We want to be like the Zynga of recycling,” referring to maker of such social games as “FarmVille.”

Competitions between fraternities at MIT have been particularly fruitful, he said, with the houses trying to compete against each other to get the top spot on an online recycling leaderboard.

Behavioral Change in Society Aided By Technological Advances = Lasting Sustainability

I have always maintained that sustainable living brought about by cultural changes is long-lasting and has far-reaching impacts than just technological advances. Greenbean’s business model incorporates both in a fun and rewarding format, like the EcoATM for e-waste recycling, that is very effective. Plus, its offers instant gratification, something that is important to consumers these days.

The project, as of today has recycled nearly 14,303 containers, saving an estimated 2,601 kilowatt-hours of electricity, according to the website.

About the Author

Hi there! I am Priti and I specialize in strategy and communications for impact organizations that aim to create social, environmental and economic wealth for all stakeholders. Working from the ground up, I help these do-gooders craft effective programs for community engagement, outreach and profitability. Follow my work covering do-gooders, cleanweb, start-ups and Web 2.0 businesses on Ecopreneurist and at Crowdsourcing Week. I enjoy traveling with my boys, cooking up a gourmet meal from scratch and entertaining! Join my community for Social Entrepreneurs on G+ Follow me on Twitter, on LinkedIn and Google+