• 08.26.14

In Beijing, You Can Pay For Train Rides With Plastic Bottles

Those deposits add up to transportation!

In Beijing, You Can Pay For Train Rides With Plastic Bottles
[Photo: Flickr user Jesse Wagstaff]

Across the world, there are many ways to encourage recycling. Tax breaks, virtual points, deposit payments–there’s no shortage of ideas. Recently, we even came across a machine in Istanbul that gives out dog food in return for a bottle or two.


Beijing is now taking its own approach by giving free train rides and mobile phone top-ups to people redeeming used plastic. Machines in 34 locations take bottle deposits and calculate their worth, issuing a credit to the person’s mobile account or transit pass. Sensors scan the bottle’s weight and composition, then prompt users to choose their option.

See more in the TV report here:

The company behind the machine, Incom, already recycles more than 15,000 tons of bottles a year. But it has to compete against numerous informal pickers, who scavenge the streets and go door to door.

The machine may be a good of way of raising awareness and putting a value to a precious commodity. But its impact may be marginal, because China already has a flourishing PET-plastic recycling industry.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.