Climate Change

Rome's trash-for-tickets scheme is a shot in the arm for recycling plastic bottles

By recycling plastic bottles for parking fee or metro rides governments are trying to manage plastic waste

By recycling plastic bottles for parking fee or metro rides governments are trying to manage plastic waste Image: REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Douglas Broom
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Just finished a drink? What if, instead of ending up in the trash, the container could go towards your metro fare? That’s an option just introduced in Rome, where citizens can get €0.05 off the price of their next journey for every bottle they recycle.

Recycling plastic bottles: the smart way

This scheme for recycling plastic bottles was tested at three stations around the Eternal City, where special machines compact the bottles and add credit to a user’s metro travel application. Since July, 350,000 bottles have been recycled, allowing the initiative to be extended across other stations until July 2020.

Recycling plastic bottles can help tackle both plastic waste and littering
Recycling plastic bottles can help tackle both plastic waste and littering Image: Statista

This summer, Rome was gripped by a waste emergency, as rubbish piled up on the streets in the scorching sun. A major landfill site and two of the city’s treatment plants have been closed, and its main waste contractor says there is nowhere to put half of the capital's rubbish.

So the Recicli + Viaggi – recycle and travel – initiative has arrived in the nick of time. Italians drink more bottled water every year than any other European nation, at 188 litres per person, making recycling plastic bottles a major issue.

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Paying in plastic

Rome is just the latest city to offer travel credits for recycling plastic bottles. A similar scheme was launched in Beijing in 2014, and in Istanbul plastic bottles can help pay for both tram and subway trips.

In the Indonesian city of Surabaya, buses accept plastic cups and bottles as payment for journeys. A two-hour bus ride costs 10 plastic cups, or five plastic bottles.

In the UK and Germany, supermarkets have installed “reverse vending machines” that issue vouchers for every plastic bottle deposited. Rewards range from £0.05 to loyalty points redeemable at the checkout.

Last year, the UK city of Leeds launched a scheme in which drivers could pay car park charges with plastic bottles. Each bottle was worth £0.20, so anyone who could fit enough bottles into their car could pay for a whole day’s parking with plastic.

And in Pamohi, in the Indian state of Assam, the Akshar Foundation School is tackling the problem by asking parents to pay their children’s school fees with plastic waste.

The need for recycling plastic bottles

Globally, we buy 1 million plastic bottles every minute, according to the organizers of World Earth Day. Discarded bottles make up just part of the 275 million tonnes of plastic waste generated worldwide each year.


In a report examining the plastic packaging industry, the World Economic Forum noted that 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year while warning the material could take up to 500 years to degrade. These smart initiatives for recycling plastic bottles are still doing their bit towards a cleaner Ear

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Climate ChangeCities and UrbanizationFuture of the Environment
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