Consumers who today snare reward points for just about anything can now rack up points for recycling.
Five Pepsi Dream Machine recycling kiosks have been wheeled into Tropicana Field, the first of many big league sports stadiums to be outfitted with machines that cough up instant coupons and tally reward points when fans stuff in empty cans and plastic bottles.
It's part of a partnership between Pepsico, Keep America Beautiful and Greenopolis, a unit of Waste Management Inc. that invented a vending machine that dishes out reward points. First-timers get a small card for identification after registering online to create their rewards account.
So far the partners have deployed more than 300 machines at supermarkets and drugstores in other states. But plans call for 3,000 more in malls, on college grounds and at other public gathering places within 18 months.
The machines take most commonly found plastic drinking bottles or any aluminum can. They hold 500 empties. So introducing them at Major League Baseball games is really more about creating exposure for rewards points as a recycling enticement before more machines appear.
Rewards are typically discounts used as a form of advertising by restaurants, theme parks, movies and other local services.
The beverage industry is under pressure to do something about the proliferation of empty drink containers. Four decades after aluminum cans and plastic bottles first swept into common use, the recycling statistics remain troubling:
• Only a third of plastic bottles and half the cans are recycled.
• Curbside recycling is offered to only half of U.S. households.
• Recycling receptacles can be found in only 12 percent of places where single-serve beverages are consumed.
Manufacturers need more recycled plastic to drive prices down.
Until that happens, it will remain difficult for them to beat the cost of making fresh bottles from petroleum.
"We needed a new business model for our side and a huge change in consumer behavior because unfortunately green had become the new beige," said Jeremy Cage, who directs the program for Pepsico, maker of Aquafina. "To get consumers engaged, we've made recycling a win for them, too."
Staff writer Mark Albright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8252.