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Beijing subway installs plastic bottle recycling machines
published:2013-01-08
Beijing’s subway line 10 has introduced reverse vending machines which allow travellers to offset their transit costs by recycling.

Recycling for a reward. The manufacturer of the machines, Incom says it’s easy.

Insert a plastic bottle, wait twenty seconds until the bottle is crushed to a third of its original size. Donors will then receive between five fen to one jiao on their commuter passes for each empty bottle.

 

Beijing’s subway line 10 has introduced reverse vending machines
which allow travellers to offset their transit costs by recycling.

 

The machine is still in a trial stage. We asked one passenger to try it out. Liu Jing, teacher at Sihuili Kindergarten, said, “It’s handy. There should be more machines like it.”

But her experience of working with children means she sees room for improvement

Liu Jing said, “If there was another opening in the lower half of the machine for children, it would be better. We should encourage environmental activities among children.”

Incom has mapped out an ambitious plan.

Liu Xuesong, deputy gen. manager of Incom, said, “We plan to install 3, 000 such machines across the city. They’ll expand to other subway lines, schools, residential areas, bus stops and shopping malls.”

 

Beijing’s subway line 10 has introduced reverse vending
machines which allow travellers to offset their transit
costs by recycling.

 

Though many people aren’t aware of the machines’ existence, responses have been mostly positive. The money incentive is not the whole point. We should encourage recycling.

But there are doubts as well. I can’t possibly save all the plastic bottles just for this. But if I have a bottle with me, I’ll use this machine. It’s a good thing. And half a minute can still be too much time for busy urban residents.

"That’s a little bit too long. 10 seconds would work for me."

But public support is not enough to help the company win a large share in bottle collection business at a lower-than-market price.

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.

Liu Xuesong, said, “Most bottles we use are made of PET, which means they’re recyclable. But most informal PET recycling workshops re-use the plastic for cloths and toys. It creates water and land pollution, and it’s a waste of resources.”

We follow the staff to their headquarters in Shunyi district on the outskirts of Beijing, where returned bottles are being sorted, washed, processed and eventually reborn as bottles again.

50, 000 tons of empty bottles go to Incom’s recycling system a year. That’s the same as saving 300, 000 tons of oil. Still, that just makes a small proportion of the some 200, 000 tons of plastic bottles Beijing produces every year.

Though small in scale, and small in money incentives, hopes are still high such machines will make difference, and help promote green activities across the city.

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