Meet The Machines That Are Reinventing Recycling

Save your bottles, because soon they might be worth the cost of a trip on the subway.

Especially if you live in Turkey. Istanbul, the country’s capital, just installed 25 smart recycling machines that have the ability to sort, crush, shred, and store plastic that can then be taken out of the machine and recycled. The only thing the machines can’t do is collect the plastic material themselves, which led to an pretty innovative idea:

If you recycle using one of these machines, you’ll be rewarded with credits to ride on the subway, or another form of public transportation in the city. The program is a part of an effort to improve the recycling rates in Istanbul, which are low throughout the country.



The idea feels (and looks) like a futuristic, eco-friendly bartering system that you might expect from a Star Wars or Blade Runner movie. But in truth, it’s a great way to break past the unfortunate reality of recycling—a lot of people simply don’t do it.

For some, this begs the question: why do people need external motivation to recycle? Isn’t the threat of a planet covered in plastic and marine life choking on plastic enough of a reason to separate waste?

It’s an interesting question, and the answer is more complicated than you might expect. For many of us—especially in California, where easy-to-use recycling institutions are in place—it can be difficult to imagine why people wouldn’t recycle. It’s so simple, right?

Not always, and reasons vary. In a small study of the psychology behind why people don’t recycle, The Huffington Post identified three types of non-recyclers: people who don’t have time, people who are confused by the systems in place, and people who don’t see the benefits of regular recycling.

For each of these types, their poor recycling habits stem from a system that’s failed them: if it takes too much time, then it’s probable that there isn’t an easy, effective way to recycle; if the methods available to recycle are unclear, then there might be a confusing system in place; if they deny or are unaware of why recycling is important, than perhaps there isn’t a clear incentive available.

From the same article, Brian Iacoviello, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine, says, “Recycling is a behavior. Much like exercising or eating healthily, people often engage in this behavior less than they should.”

And of course, everyone ‘should’ recycle regularly: when done correctly, recycling saves energy and material costs, reduces landfill waste, and keeps harmful materials out of the oceans.

It would seem then that the biggest restrictor is the disconnect between the action of recycling and it’s eventual benefits. Since the positive result of a regular recycling habit is gradual, some people are unable to place it’s importance above the inconvenience of sorting waste.

This is why this method of recycling: providing an immediate advantage to recycling—credits for public transportation—is genius, as it increases the immediate value of recycling over it’s inconvenience.

Me and my plastic bottles are moving to Istanbul

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