Turning Trash into Cash: Colombian company gives coupons for recycled bottles, cans
The incentive of cash for recyclables is nothing new. But in Colombia, the idea has just caught on, and they're taking it a few steps further to help consumers and businesses really cash in. CGTN's Michelle Begue reports from Bogota.
For the past year Luisa Fernanda Maya has been taking her empty soda bottles to this machine. In exchange she gets coupons for discounts at clothing stores, restaurants and ride services.
VOX POP "If you get the Uber discount it tells you to put in a coupon number you received and with it you get a certain discount. For example with food I get 3 dollar discount or in Uber I get about 1.50 discount for each ride."
The machine is called Ecobot and it is 100-percent Colombian made. The idea came about when Santiago Aramburo was studying in Germany. The Colombian engineering student was impressed by how Germans recycled and received monetary compensation for doing so.
SANTIAGO ARAMBURO CO-FOUNDER, ECOBOT "As we investigated we realized we couldn't do the same thing and give money away because there is no policy here to force companies to recycle. So we found a more sustainable way by providing coupons."
Aramburo and his sister partnered with companies such as movie theatres, gyms and local restaurants who want to promote their services through coupons for Ecobot users. Maintenance for the machines is paid for by selling ad space on side panels.
MICHELLE BEGUE BOGOTA To date, Colombia has not eagerly embraced the idea of recycling. Government data shows only 17 percent of waste in the country is reprocessed. Officials hope legislation passed last year to modernize and regulate recycling will boost that figure.
In the meantime the creators of Ecobot say citizens need more encouragement to recycle. Colombia's current recycling system is based on informal workers who, if they're lucky, are paid about 30 cents per kilo for bottles they pick up and sell to recycling plants.
SANTIAGO ARAMBURO CO-FOUNDER, ECOBOT "At this moment our recycling system are the informal workers that go from home to home to pick up recycled materials. These workers live off of what they can carry on their backs to be sold to recycling plants."
Offering incentives for recycling with the Ecobots seems to be working. Since their launch in April of 2016, seven machines across Cali have collected 147 thousand plastic bottles to be recycled. In September they hope to expand to universities and shopping centers in Bogota. But their main goal is to show all of Latin America that recycling does pay. Michelle Begue CGTN Cali.