OMG! California firsts and the recycling benefits of REMAG explained further Go

Home to nearly one eighth of the US population, it is not uncommon to see things happen first in California.  The state is known as a primary producer of grapes and there are more turkeys raised in California than any other state.  In 1947, a young woman named Norma Jean was named as the first artichoke queen in Castroville, CA.

Perhaps 2012 will be recorded as part of the state’s history for hosting the inaugural trials of the REMAG kiosks.   An innovative, new reverse vending system, REMAG is slated for trials at eight supermarket locations in the Bay Area and Central Valley.   The concept is pretty straight forward: using a kiosk system, users can redeem magazines and catalogs for rewards.

Last week, a blogger for Target Marketing, shared his thoughts on the wide variety of benefits of this program for various stakeholders including consumers, retailers, catalogers and publishers and the scrap recycling industry.  Herein I offer a few more comments on the recycling benefits.

While paper continues to be recovered for recycling at rates significantly higher than other materials (66.8% in 2011) the industry still faces many challenges and opportunities.  In particular, printing and writing grades tend to lag behind newsprint and old corrugated containers.  And - as far as I’m concerned – for no good reason.  Magazines and catalogs are fully recyclable and the vast majority of people in the US have access to recycling facilities.  I am convinced that through continued education, reminders about recycling – and now with additional incentives – consumers will learn to recycle even more paper products 

Unfortunately, there is still confusion about the recyclability of products made with coated papers.  Perhaps some confusion stems from history – there was a time that many of us were taught not to recycle “glossy” papers and some of that stigma remains today.  This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about the use of “please recycle” claims and logos on printed piecesAnd it’s one of the reasons that I’m excited about REMAG:  The program will serve to help re-educate people about the recyclability of magazines and catalogs. 

For papermakers across many segments, getting fiber of good quality is a growing challenge – in great part because of continued growth of municipal systems where everything recyclable goes in the same bin (known as single stream recycling).  But REMAG has the potential to help.  Better separation helps recycled fiber maintain a higher value to the market.  While many people simply think of waste paper as “one thing” – there are actually multiple grades destined for multiple uses.   (I just counted 51 different grades of paper listed at scrapindex.com)  

For those active in social media, OMG, conveys a sense of excitement.  For those in the scrap industry, OMG is Old Magazine Grades – also worthy of excitement as it has higher value than mixed papers.

OMG.  I am so totally rooting for REMAG. 

Reverse vending machines offer rewards for recycling Go

The latest statistics from the EPA reveal that when it comes to recycling, we still have a long way to go – especially for certain materials.   In the US we generate over 4lb of municipal solid waste per person – every day.  And despite the growth of recycling programs, we are still only recycling about 1/3 of the waste generated.  2010 statistics show that paper leads the pack at roughly 63% recovery, followed by metals at 35%, glass at 27% and plastics at less than 10%. 

Within each material category there are some highlights – for example 67% of steel cans are recovered and we are recycling nearly half of our aluminum beverage cans.  Again, plastic lags behind other materials and even in the beverage category less than one third of plastic bottles are recycled.   In an effort to increase recycling of these materials, many programs have been developed to help incentivize recyclers.

Recycling kiosks, also sometimes referred to as “reverse vending machines” have been used primarily for collection of beverage cans and bottles.  These systems have been available and evolving since the 1980’s.  Typically installations have been located in retail outlets or grocery stores offering redemptions in cash or point systems. 

CLYNK is a recycling company with a bottle redemption system offered exclusively through Hannaford supermarkets in Maine.  This program has a unique focus on education and has developed five modules to teach children about various aspects of recycling.  They have also developed an annual recycling competition for schools.  Mainers looking for drop off locations can search here.

Waste Management developed Greenopolis - a point based system for bottles and cans supported by an online community.  Users can redeem points for a broad variety of awards ranging from movie tickets to discount coupons at local resaurants.  Points can also be donated to charities.  Locations for Greenopolis kiosks across the country can be searched here

These systems are also moving beyond just beverage containers.   Recently, international furniture retailer, IKEA started installing machines to collect compact fluorescent light bulbs and batteries.   The ecoATM program, located primarily in southern California, uses kiosks to collect cell phones and MP3 players.

And despite the relatively high recovery rates for paper, not all paper products are recovered at the same rates.  The REMAG system has been developed specifically targeting magazines and catalogs.  While not yet in service, I have recently learned that the first wave of REMAG kiosks will soon be showing up in multiple locations in California.  Customers will be rewarded for recycling magazines and catalogs with multiple coupons of their choice.  And if the rewards are even close to those indicated in this video, users will not be getting pennies per item, but as much as $1.50 for a single magazine.