We’ve come a long way as a society in reducing the amount of recyclable materials that wind up in our solid waste stream. Programs have been put in place to reward people for recycling (5-cent refunds on soda and beer bottles and cans) and some towns have made it cost-prohibitive not to recycle (increased costs for trash disposal at the dump). But there is still room for improvement.
Take those redeemable bottles and cans, for instance. It’s astounding to see how many of these items, even with a 5-cent incentive, still end up in the trash. Just take a peek in any public beach trash can.
We can guess that the reason people toss their bottles and cans in the trash rather than turning them in for the refund is because they just can’t be bothered. After all, sorting and storing them in assorted bins can be a messy business and carting them to a local redemption center is just one more chore. Not to mention having to wash out those sticky, stinky bins back at home.
Anyway, who knows if the recycling is even worth the effort? Is it really making a difference in the world?
Well, a creative redemption company in Maine, called CLYNK, has found a way to make recycling these bottles and cans more convenient and, at the same time, provide their customers with information about how their personal recycling efforts are making real progress in protecting the planet.
The company’s slogan is “Bag it, tag it, drop it, done.” It works like this: a CLYNK customer signs up with the company to create a personalized account. They then purchase bags that are available in two sizes. The company says it sells these bags at cost. The large size costs 15 cents each, and the smaller size costs 12.5 cents each. The first 10 bags are free for new customers.
These recyclable bags are then linked to the person’s account through bar-coded bag tags. The customer simply fills up the bags and drops them off at the CLYNK center at the local supermarket.
The bags are processed and, using the barcode, the refund amount is added to the customer’s account. On average, the larger bags hold about $3.50 worth of returnables.
Customers are able to track their accounts online and access their money at a kiosk in their market using a membership card to make withdrawals.
The company’s database also makes it possible for a customer to track their own personal impact on the environment in terms of energy saved and waste volume reduction. For instance, in general terms, the company’s website states that this year, by recycling bottles and cans, CLYNK users have saved enough energy to light 79,548 light bulbs, 24 hours a day, for a year. The volume of these recyclables could fill 204 average-sized homes in Maine. According to its website, CLYNK, from its inception in 2006, has diverted enough containers to fill Fenway Park to the top of the green monster 6.7 times.
Put this way, it’s easy for users to understand the progress recycling is making to reduce their solid waste stream. Stores partnered with CLYNK report seeing a five to 15 percent increase in recycling, according to a news report in the Portland Press Herald.
Additionally, the company offers schools or other nonprofit groups a way to raise money with bottle and can drives. All the group has to do is distribute bags labeled with barcodes linked to their account. The redemption amount from all the bottles and cans returned in these bags goes directly into the group’s account.
Last year, 51 Maine schools raised funds through CLYNK, recycling 304,000 containers and raising over $23,000.
The company’s website also has a tab for educational resources that provide teachers with suggested lessons plans on recycling.
CLYNK has received several state environmental awards and grants. These grants have allowed the company to expand and further streamline its operation. Last year, the company used a $1.1 million grant to build a more efficient sorting system at its South Portland factory. The system, which includes a processing line and 10 sorting stations, boasts a higher capacity that will prime the company for future expansion.
Currently, CLYNK is only available at Hannaford stores in Maine but the business seems ripe for growth. When the first CLYNK center was opened in Scarborough, Maine, the company was surprised how immediately popular it was. From that one location, CLYNK has grown to more than 50 locations now throughout the state. We expect Cape Codders would embrace CLYNK just as enthusiastically as Mainers have.
“Bag it, tag it, drop it, done.” It doesn’t get much easier than that.