||This article uses bare URLs for citations, which may be threatened by link rot. (May 2012)|
|Headquarters||New York, New York|
|Key people||Javier Flaim, Chief Executive Officer|
Recyclebank is a company headquartered in New York City with offices in Philadelphia and Houston that rewards people for taking everyday green actions with discounts and deals from thousands of local and national businesses. It does this providing points to its members for an array of environmentally friendly behaviors including recycling their household garbage, using energy more efficiently at home, reducing water usage, buying greener products and even by walking to work instead of driving. Recyclebank also uses its digital platform to educate consumers on green behavior through “Learn and Earn” quizzes that give Recyclebank users points for correctly answering questions about ecology, energy and the like, and through interaction via Facebook, Twitter and mobile applications. These points can be used at participating local and national rewards partners.
Recyclebank was founded in 2004 by Patrick K. FitzGerald and Ron Gonen and a pilot program that focused on recycling was launched in two Philadelphia neighborhoods. With its rewards for recycling programs, Recyclebank forms partnerships with cities, counties and towns that are designed to drive up recycling rates. Homeowners receive Recyclebank points based on the recycling weights. Jonathan Hsu, previously CEO of 24/7 Real Media, replaced Ron Gonen as CEO in October 2010. According to Hsu, the company can be described as the largest consumer-facing engagement platform for all things sustainability. In November 2013, the previous chief sales and marketing officer at Recyclebank, Javier Flaim succeeded Hsu, who will serve in an advisory role throughout the subsequent months.
Recyclebank is a member company of Ceres, a network nationwide of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change. Investors include RRE Ventures, Generation Investment Management, Sigma Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Westly Group and Waste Management, Inc.
Al Gore is directly involved in Recyclebank due to his leadership roles as a founder of Generation Investment Management and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. He made a presentation to members of the sustainability community on the global climate crisis and the role of the network effect to motivate behavior change on a mass scale in October 2011 at an event hosted by Recyclebank at Donna Karan’s Urban Zen Center in New York City. In particular, he highlighted the important role of large consumer brands and the digital medium in generating mass-oriented solutions. Audience members included nonprofit directors, venture capitalists, senior marketing executives and employees and board members of Recyclebank.
Recyclebank currently has over three million members participating in its platform. In May 2011 Recyclebank acquired GreenYour, a web-based guide that offers tips on living green, and in October 2011, with Waste Management’s investment in the company, Recyclebank assumed control of Greenopolis’s social recycling program, which rewards consumers for recycling on the go by combining incentives with state-of-the-art collection and tracking technology. The addition of the Greenopolis social recycling system and technologies to Recyclebank’s growing point-earning opportunities expands Recyclebank’s global green incentives platform and provides more opportunities to recycle at more than 1,000 Greenopolis recycling locations across North America. As of July 2011, Recyclebank employs 180 employees.
Recyclebank has been ranked as #37 in Fast Company's World's 50 Most Innovative Companies of 2012 for making eco-friendly behavior a big game. The company has also been recognized as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum, a Champion of the Earth by the United Nations Environment Programme, for Outstanding Excellence in Public/Private Partnerships from the United States Conference of Mayors, 2009 Best Educational Resource Award at the 12th Annual SXSW Web Awards for The Cycle, a finalist in both the 2011 World Technology and Katerva Awards and as the #1 and as the top Venture-backed Clean-tech Company by The Wall Street Journal in 2011. The company was ranked the #4 Venture-backed Clean-tech Company by WSJ in 2010.
Recyclebank has a social enterprise business model, which applies business strategy to achieve positive social impact. In fact, the company is a certified B Corporation, which is a class of corporation required by law to create general benefit for society as well as for shareholders. The company drives revenue through two distinct streams. First, the company does not own any recycling equipment or trucks, and instead relies upon contracts negotiated on behalf of the municipalities with which they are partnered. The haulers and waste processors are compensated by the municipality, and Recyclebank takes a small portion of the transaction as a fee. This fee in turn covers Recyclebank's operating expenses. Additionally, the company operates a marketing platform, offering sponsorships and advertising through online digital experience, direct mail and on recycling containers that help to educate consumers about green actions.
Major brands such as Procter & Gamble have collaborated with Recyclebank to engage consumers with this digital learning experience, which involves interactive educational content (watching videos, flash animation or other online content) that informs individuals about taking small steps to live more sustainably—and rewards them with Recyclebank Points. P&G's Future Friendly program sponsors incentives for people to sign up with Recyclebank, a sort of electronic "Green Stamps" that gives people points redeemable for local merchants or merchandise when they recycle through curbside collection programs. From this, the company developed the ‘Learn & Earn’, a digital learning experience that focuses on everyday green actions. Companies that have participated in ‘Learn & Earns’ include S. C. Johnson & Son, Johnson & Johnson, Domtar, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, General Electric and Nestlé Purina PetCare. Procter and Gamble no longer work with the company and the city of Cincinnati cancelled their contract with Recyclebank in April of 2013. Johnson and Johnson has also ceased work with the company.
Recyclebank also helps companies increase their end-of-life (product) recycling rates through its product recycling awareness program "Points for Planet." One such partnership is with Kashi, where members can earn 50 points for each Kashi cereal box they recycle. Members must enter a code, printed inside specially marked boxes, at the Recyclebank website to claim the points.
Recyclebank has partnered with Ziploc in a larger initiative for landfill diversion. Recognizing its impact on the nation’s landfills, Ziploc began working with Recyclebank in January 2011 to offset, by weight, the amount of Ziploc brand product waste that could potentially end up in landfills. It is sponsoring launches of Recyclebank’s rewards-for-recycling program in communities across America, helping to increase recycling rates in an effort to keep more than 100 million pounds of waste out of landfills over the next two years.
In October 2011, Recyclebank expanded its marketing platform with the introduction of the Recyclebank Ecosystem. The Ecosystem allows users to earn Recyclebank Points online by interacting with other like-minded, eco-conscious brands that encourage sustainable actions. Initial partners include Barnes & Noble, MillionTreesNYC (a public-private partnership with New York City and Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project), Earth911, Thredup and Uncommon Goods. Examples of point earning interactions include signing up for Earth911’s weekly green newsletter or joining the clothes swapping community of thredUP.
Recyclebank rewards people with points for green actions that they can redeem from major brands and local businesses. The company has more than 3,000 local partners and more than a hundred national brands and businesses, including Brita, Whole Foods Market, The Coca-Cola Company, Kashi, Dove, Aveeno, Q-tips, Suave, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Nestlé Purina PetCare, Ziploc, Dick's Sporting Goods, Stonyfield Farm and Earthbound Farm.
Rewards for Recycling
The Recyclebank rewards for recycling program services communities in the U.K. and 31 U.S. states. As part of its investment from Waste Management, Recyclebank is expected to grow its rewards for recycling program to nearly 20 million customers in North America through expansion in Waste Management communities over the next few years. The program rewards consumers for recycling through discounts and deals from major brands and local businesses. Municipalities report a marked difference in recycling rates and participation with implementation of Recyclebank’s rewards for recycling program.
During its first year in the Recyclebank program, the city of Hollywood, Florida saved approximately $500,000 in waste disposal fees while generating more than $250,000 in recycling revenue. The program encouraged two-thirds of city residents to participate each month and increased recycling tonnages by 130 percent in the program’s first year.
In the first six months of the Philadelphia Recycling Rewards program, the city’s diversion rate (the percentage of waste materials diverted from traditional disposal, such as landfilling or incineration, to be recycled instead) increased by 16 percent over the same period the year before. In January 2011, the actual diversion rate eclipsed 20 percent—the first time in Philadelphia’s history.
Since initiating Recyclebank’s program in 2010, the city of Cincinnati reported a 49 percent increase in the recyclable material tonnage collected in the past six months compared to the same period the previous year. The city also said that it has increased its diversion rate to 17 percent, which exceeds the 2011 benchmark of 15 percent established by a city council motion in May 2008.
Transport for London
In October 2011, Recyclebank partnered with Transport for London, the organization that runs London’s public and alternative transportation system, to incentivize London commuters to walk or ride to work. With a focus on increasing bikeshare ridership and on-foot commuting before the 2012 Olympics, Transport for London turned to Recyclebank to create a mobile application that will allow London-based users to log the distance of their journeys and receive points depending on the length. At the end of each journey, Recyclebank shows the number of points earned, as well as health and environmental benefits, such as the number of trees saved, miles saved by staying off the road and the reduction in carbon emissions. The application will also show users nearby locations where they can redeem their points.
Gaming For Good
Gamification refers to the practice of using game elements in non-game environments as a way to encourage people to adopt desired behaviors. This model seems to be intrinsic to Recyclebank’s business model, with its roots in awarding points for rewards in order Recyclebank uses gamification to engage members online while influencing behaviors offline. Recyclebank also uses engaging gaming techniques to serve up its educational content including virtual currency, interactive modules, leaderboards and achievement badges. This broad platform motivates members to take their own sustainability journey with in a fun yet educational environment.
Recyclebank has further built out its gaming platform with the introduction of its ‘Green Your’ campaigns. These online gamification campaigns center around particular themes where members accumulate points for answering related quiz questions, pledging to take eco-friendly actions, learning how to help the environment and referring friends to Recyclebank. They also include prizes for earning the most points, submitting the most creative user-generated content and automatic entry into a sweepstakes drawing. The purpose of these campaigns is to provide the ‘eco-curious’ mom target with everyday tips and actions she can take, to lead a more sustainable life. The four themes for 2011, which ran for three months each, included the Green Your Home Challenge for Earth Month launched in April, the Green Your Vacation Contest launched in June, the Green Your School Year Challenge launched in August  and the Green Your Seasons Challenge launched in November. Digital agency Blue State Digital creates the interactive campaigns for Recyclebank.
Recyclebank partnered with Google to release a white paper on ‘gaming for good’, which analyzed the results of Recyclebank’s Green Your Home Challenge. Results showed that gamification can increase awareness of positive environmental actions with 97% of the Challenge participants surveyed saying the game increased their knowledge about how to help the environment. It also found that games hold the power to impact actual green actions with 28% of people reporting that they use CFL/eco bulbs prior to the Challenge and 38% after completing the Challenge, which is an increase of 10%.
Chief Revenue Officer Samantha Skey is a thought leader on gamification and public-facing figure for Recyclebank’s gamification strategy. Before joining Recyclebank, Skey helped develop Riddler, one of the web’s first real-time, multi-player, reward-based gaming sites at Interactive Imaginations. She advises companies on how to reach millennial moms with gaming. In particular, she has stated that this generation of mothers (those born after 1980) are wallet-driven activists who consider both family health and environmental sustainability when making purchases. “The Millennial mom has different expectations for the brands she supports and demands transparency and authenticity both from the brand’s on- and offline efforts.” They also grew up in the gaming generation and adding social currency to the deal can help incentivize them to make positive lifestyle changes.”
In February 2011, Recyclebank formed a sustainability council to advise the company on environmental issues and performance in order to meet its long-term goals, similar to other companies such as Dow Jones & Company and Procter & Gamble. The group counsels Recyclebank on the latest environmental issues, as well as how to evolve the company so that it stays true to its mission.
Members of the Recyclebank Sustainability Advisory Council include:
- Aron Cramer: President and CEO of Business for Social Responsibility.
- John Elkington: Executive Chairman of Volans and co-founder and non-executive chairman at SustainAbility.
- Wendy Gordon: Founder of Mothers & Others for a Livable Planet and The Green Guide.
- Kevin Wall: Co-founder of Live Earth and managing partner of Craton Equity Partners.
- Andrew L. Shapiro: Founder and former CEO of GreenOrder, venture partner of GTI Group LLC.
Some companies outside of United States have a similar business model as RecycleBank. The most prominent are Brazilian startup Cidade Viva, which has a wider approach on well-being, rewarding not only recycling but also volunteering, car sharing and having a healthier life, and French startup CitéGreen.
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- Official Site for RecycleBank
- New York Times Article on RecycleBank and founders
- Boston Globe Article on RecycleBank
- Fortune article
- Time article
- Treehugger.com Article on Incentive-Based Recycling
- Profile of Founder Ron Gonen
- List of Ceres Participating Companies
- RecycleBank Provider in Lincoln, Nebraska
- RecycleBank Provider in Omaha, Nebraska
- Municipalities involved