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Recycling machine with potential ‘rewards’

By Danielle van Wyk

The message of being good to our environment and recycling is inescapable these days, from organic food and eco-friendly cars to biodegradable products. For many however, the task of having to put food on the table still trumps the responsibility to recycle. A challenge that brothers Justin and Christopher Needham under the banner of Imagined Earth, are trying to address, as they developed Africa’s first reverse recycling machine (RVM). That being said, we ask the question of whether this is really worth the public’s effort, at this stage. 

The concept

“We came across the technology a few years ago and thought that it would be perfect for the African market in light of the fact that our services cannot handle the amount of waste going into landfills. In particular, recycling has always been viewed as a luxury, as an afterthought and the fact that our technology offers individual users incentives will change people's perceptions on the impact we have on our environment,” said developer Justin Needham.

How does it work?

“Once you have registered on the website, you can begin recycling at the RVM by pushing the "Start recycling” button. The slot for your bottle/can then open, no glass is accepted. You then place your item in the machine with the bar code facing up (you can enter 30 items at a time), the slot closes and the screen will direct you to our website and indicate your current balance,” explained Needham.

Your balance is based on the items you recycle and the corresponding points you receive. Points range from five points for a 200 ml to 30 points for a two litre.

“The points are used to enter competitions where there is a minimum points for entrance, and a certain amount of points per entry,” said Needham.

The next competition, for example, is set to start in July and the prize up for grabs is a Jozi Fresh box which consists of a months’ worth of “delicious organic, sustainable produce delivered to your front door.”

The box boasts eats that are organically grown and cultivated. From seasonal vegetables and free range eggs to hormone free chicken and preservative free cheese, to name a few products.

“At this point we have Cnr café, Voodoo Lily Cafe, JoziFresh, Bloss & Co. and One Juice as competition sponsors,” added Needham.

A possibility of a ticket redemption facility for both train and bus tickets is in the pipeline too.

But is this really beneficial? As it stands the initiative rewards you with points for recycling, which you are then able to use to enter the various competitions, where there is no guarantee that you will win or be rewarded.

Humans love to be rewarded but it seems the points themselves are of no benefit. At least with a system like the Pick n Pay Smartshopper system, your points are guaranteed to be translated into something of monetary value.

Where are the machines located?

Johannesburg is the only city currently that boasts these RVM’s but around December the initiative aims to set up in both Cape Town and Durban.

“We will be focusing our offerings on different groups based on people’s needs at different stages in our roll-out. To begin with, we are focusing on businesses and residential areas in the major metropolitan areas of JHB, CPT and Durban. We cannot create awareness on our own as effectively as we would want and as such we feel to recruit major businesses to help promote the recycling initiative is the best approach,” said Needham.

As more machines are rolled out the rewards offered will differ and increase. “Each machine will offer a number different rewards including prizes from our partner companies, rewards for your school, airtime and commuter credit,” Needham explained.

The public is encouraged to make contact with the company, through their website, with ideas on how to improve the offering and system.

“We want to change people's behaviours and perceptions regarding our responsibility to protect our planet for both ourselves and future generations,” stated Needham.

While recycling is always a good way to do your bit in giving back, and the initiative is a new and developing one with many ideas in the pipeline.  Here’s hoping that the developers look to making this a more concretely rewarding one.

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