In China, you can pay for a subway ticket by recycling!

Posted on 25 September 2014.

Since 2012, a pilot program in the Beijing subway has been educating passengers to recycle their empty plastic bottles using a system as simple as it is ingenious.

Beijing subway line 10. Large blue and white machines have been placed at strategic points. For drinks? Sweets? Neither. In fact they are not vending machines at all, but machines for recycling plastic bottles.

As simple as “Ni Hao”

After you insert your empty bottle, the glutton identifies it by the barcode (and if it can’t read it for any reason, spits the bottle out again!). Twenty seconds later, the bottle is crushed. But it doesn’t stop there... A few seconds later, you are issued with a ticket - you just earned ten yuan cents* on your travel card.

How does it work?

With a capacity of four hundred bottles a day, these reverse vending machines installed by INCOM, a Chinese company specializing in recycling, make a real contribution to protecting the environment. Of course, the incentive to use them is relative in that the money credited varies from five to ten cents depending on the size of the bottle. A ticket costs 2 yuan, meaning twenty bottles are needed for a free trip. But that’s not its main advantage - the INCOM machines are primarily educational tools.

Users and the media agree – it is a very successful initiative

In a place like the subway where lots of people rub shoulders every day, the opportunity to make a gesture for the environment in less than a minute will more than likely be copied. Far from the usual efforts people have to make - sorting and storing waste at home, then taking it to the collection point – the machine makes respecting the environment incredibly simple and accessible, and provides an immediate, albeit symbolic, benefit!

In a city that every year generates nearly 200,000 tons of plastic bottles all containing PET, INCOM is able to recycle just 50,000 tons. Consequently in 2013, it announced its intention to install up to 3,000 machines on other subway lines and to include locations such as bus stops, schools and shopping malls. These machines will also handle other materials such as metal cans.

* 1 yuan = 0.12€

For more information:

- INCOM’s official website