Eco-entrepreneurs pay people to recycle

What’s the best way to get people to recycle? Same way you get them to do anything: pay them for it. Patrick FitzGerald and Ron Gonen founded RecycleBank in 2004 on the notion that economic incentives would motivate recycling more effectively than green principles. Their system rewards households with up to $400 a year in credits to national chain stores based on the weight of the recyclables they generate — tracked when sanitation crews scan “smart waste” tags in specially supplied recycling bins. In a six-month Philadelphia pilot project involving 2,500 households, recycling rates jumped from 35 to 90 percent in well-off Chestnut Hill, and from 7 to 90 percent in more moderate West Oak Lane. Now RecycleBank has sold its services to several mid-Atlantic and New England municipalities, guaranteeing clients they’ll make back the $24 paid per household — or better — by averting trash-disposal fees. Slightly cynical, maybe, but hey, we’ll take it.