The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

RecycleBank Is Worse Than Doing Nothing

Posted by keith on March 8th, 2010

We’re moving house soon, which means discovering untold secrets in the rarely visited corners of our current place of abode. After 16 years in the same place, much of that with an attitude that could possibly be described as “hoarder”, it’s no surprise that our domestic recycling bin is being kept filled up, as is our recently opened Sellers eBay account, the shelves of the local charity shops and the boot fair (I don’t know if these are unique to the UK) at which we will be selling off lots of stuff for little money next weekend.

The corollary to this is that we look back and wonder how on earth we accumulated so much stuff, quickly realising that merely recognising the problem is a step on from the typical “consumer” mindset. When this recognition turns into the understanding that we have a massive social problem, driven by the constant belief that to be a civilian you must contribute to economic growth, then you definitely start to diverge from the consumer highway. When you accept that this is the way civilisation is, and the only way to avoid being a destructive person is to reject the label “consumer” entirely, then you probably start to feel like a social pariah! “What do you mean you aren’t a consumer! What else is there to life?”

No surprise then, that in the early lead up to the UK General Election, the Conservatives made the pledge to encourage the collective citizen’s green blanket that is recycling by (wait for it) giving away shopping vouchers to the best recyclers!

Now don’t get me wrong, in some cases recycling is better than not recycling – but that’s where it ends. In order to be a “good recycler” you first have to have lots of stuff to recycle in the first place, meaning that you have to be a Good Consumer. That’s a lovely title, isn’t it?

Mike Webster of Waste Watch makes the point excellently:

“Although the scheme will encourage people to recycle more, it does not actually encourage them to produce less waste. You could even say that it is encouraging people to produce waste by paying them.”

Spot on, Mike, but that hasn’t stopped an entire industry growing up around the act of rewarding people for being good Recyclers / Consumers. Step up to the plate RecycleBank

We’re sure that any person can make changes in life to lessen their impact on the planet. That’s why we go to every kind of neighborhood and involve people from all walks of life: recycling is the one thing we can all do.

RecycleBank is here to change behaviors and attitudes – not as enforcers, but encouragers. Whether you are taking baby steps, learning the path to greater awareness, or are a bona fide tree hugger, we respect your shade of green.

We believe we can help by making recycling understandable, easy and rewarding. We’re proud that we have created a level playing field where everyone can feel free to participate; appreciated for what they do and have the opportunity to live more sustainable lives. We enthusiastically support all forms of forward progress.

Now isn’t that just lovely? But look at the last sentence: “We enthusiastically support all forms of forward progress.” What does “progress” mean in the industrial world? It means anything that creates economic growth, and that’s where RecycleBank excels; as demonstrated by their Recycle-Redeem-Reward process:

RecycleBank partners with cities and haulers to reward households for recycling. Households earn RecycleBank Points that can be used to shop at over 1,500 local and national businesses.

RecycleBank records the amount you recycle…

Redeem the points in your account…

Get Rewards at over 2400 retailers.

Among the retailers who clearly have a heart of green are:

Dunkin’ Donuts
Texas Roadhouse

I think you get the picture.

And the company’s efforts are sponsored by Coca Cola, that bastion of all things sustainable and long-term.

Back in the UK, RecycleBank are just starting to make inroads, which is where the Conservative policy comes in, because it was the Marks and Spencer vouchers mentioned in the article that links to the UK page and the potential for hundreds, if not thousands of businesses (and forget the “local business” flannel, this is about global economics) to all stick their finger in the recycling pie and pull out a juicy plum in the form of lots more good and sadly deluded consumers, all thinking they are doing something good for the planet.

It almost makes me want to cry.

2 Responses to “RecycleBank Is Worse Than Doing Nothing”

  1. Chris Lawrence Says:

    Yes, this is insane. The phrase is Reduce, reuse, reycle. Reycling is the last resort. Reduction (of consumption, energy use, waste, etc) must take priority.

  2. Janaia Donaldson Says:

    The corporates are incredibly skillful at their work: find a growth opportunity and they’ll pop up, more skillfully than any so-called “weed”. At least so-called weeds do something productive — build soil. If those vouchers were redeemable only at your local food producer, or the local fix-it shop, or in the local alternate currency…then I think we’d be closer to the right path.

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