Gift cards, discounts for those who recycle

PHILADELPHIA. Since recycling began in Silas Johnson’s Brewerytown neighborhood over a decade ago, the single man has been an earnest contributor to the cause.

“I looked this morning and I had four cans in the bins, not a lot,” Johnson said. “I’m a bachelor.”

His neighbors better hope he eats more canned food, since a new incentive program announced by the city Thursday will give residents gift cards and store discounts when their neighborhoods reach certain milestones through RecycleBank, which is running the program for the city.

“This allows us to give back to residents who have made recycling a priority in their neighborhoods,” Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson said.

The city has made extensive gains since single-stream recycling began about two years ago, doubling its “diversion” rate from about 7 percent then to more than 15 percent now. Each percentage point equals 7,000 tons of waste and every ton saves the city $64, deputy Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams said. That translates to some $3.5 million a year.

The city needs incentives, considering it’s set goals of increasing its recycling rate to 20 percent by 2011 and 25 percent by 2015. Significant progress has been made since the city partnered with RecycleBank, which now works with cities across the country to increase recycling.

Recycling Rewards, which residents can sign up for at www.phillyrecyclingpays.com, will begin in North Philadelphia in February, followed by a different section of the city each month until every neighborhood is included by July 2010.

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