Indonesia’s and Beijing’s subway authorities have introduced reverse vending machines which allow travelers to offset their transit costs by recycling. Passengers insert a plastic bottle, wait twenty seconds until the bottle is crushed to a third of its original size. Donors then receive one jiao (1.6 cents) on their commuter passes for each empty bottle. The machines have been installed in two stations Jinsong and Shaoyaoju. Recycling for a reward. The manufacturer of the machines, Incom says it’s easy. The machine here will be competing against the subway’s numerous scavengers and underground collection centers, which actually turns recyclable material into waste, and produce more pollution. The company is confident that being a green campaigner will help them win. The machine is still in a trial stage. The company plans to install 3, 000 such machines across the city. They’ll expand to other subway lines, schools, residential areas, bus stops and shopping malls. Similar machines will soon be installed in bus stops as well.


Indonesia’s second largest city Surabaya has announced a roll out out of a new fleet of buses that passengers are encouraged to pay for by turning in their used plastic. The city’s mayor Risma Rismaharini has stated that the scheme aims to tackle the country’s plastic pollution and to encourage more people to use public transport. The collected plastic is also going to be recycled into new goods.

Indonesia is the world’s second largest contributor of plastic pollution in oceans only just behind China. Therefore, it is encouraging to see the country implementing novel ways to tackle the issue by introducing a scheme of using plastic waste in exchange for a bus fare. Not only will the plastic waste be collected rather than end up in oceans, it will be recycled into new products, contributing to a more circular economy. Further, more people using public transport means fewer vehicles and traffic on the streets, which could have the further added benefit of lower CO2 emissions. Will other cities and countries follow suit in implementing similar schemes? Or should governments do more and scale up faster given the size of the problem?

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