Every day, vending machines around the world pump out countless drinks and snacks, bringing with them the packaging waste to match, but what if they did the reverse? What if, after you’re done with your bottle, you can feed it back to vending machine for cash that can then be transferred to you or someone in need?
The idea isn’t a new one. After all, people have been turning in their cans and bottles for cash since the early 70s, but Greenbean Recycling is piloting a way to make package recycling accessible to the masses for a good cause. Starting with three colleges in Massachusetts, Greenbean hopes to improve recycling rates and give a little back to charity.
The “reverse vending machines” are currently placed around the campuses Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University and Brandeis University, which allow students to see just how many kilowatts of energy they saved by recycling and get a bit of money back as student ID cash or transferred to a PayPal account. Students can also donate the extra coins to charities including Nature Conservancy, The Fisher House Foundation, Relay for Life and various local charities.
Unlike other reverse vending machines in grocery stores that only accept containers sold in-store, Greenbean accepts all recyclables. Once you’re finished recycling your beer bottles, cans and containers, the vending machine gives you an option to share your contribution with your friends via Facebook and other social media platforms.
It’s an idea that won the company recognition at the WPI Venture Forum, an organization for technology entrepreneurship, as well as several other entrepreneurship competitions since its 2010 inception.
The company plans to expand its vending machine services to airports, stadiums, condos and pretty much any place that has a large amount of recyclables and foot traffic.