When PepsiCo launched its Dream Machine recycling initiative this past Earth Day, the company set out to achieve a goal that, to put it mildly, was rather ambitious: to increase the national beverage container recycling rate from its current lackluster 34 percent to a rate of 50 percent by 2018.
But according to Keep America Beautiful (KAB), a partner of PepsiCo and the Dream Machine project, only 12 percent of public spaces are equipped with recycling receptacles. This creates an obstacle for recyclers - and consumers for that matter - as many single-use beverage containers are used on the go. With the help of Waste Management and Greenopolis, the Dream Machine could change that.
The Dream Machine is essentially a reverse vending machine that accepts beverage containers for recycling. Consumers can drop off PET plastic bottles or aluminum cans and receive points redeemable at either the host venue or Greenopolis.com.
"An important part of the program is that there are incentives for everyone, says Jeremy Cage, senior vice president of Innovation and Insights for PepsiCo. "First, there’s the benefit of knowing you are doing something good for the planet. Then, there’s the use of technology to make the recycling experience more fun and personally rewarding [...] We’ve found that people love getting a reward for doing the right thing and have fun tracking their points."
Cage says the Dream Machine provides rewards on an emotional level for consumers as well. For every beverage container recycled in a Dream Machine, PepsiCo contributes funding to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), a unique program designed to help veterans start their own business. PepsiCo will make a minimum contribution to EBV of $500,000 per year, over the next several years. Through the Pepsi Refresh Project, the company has awarded $575,000, to date, in grants that support American military troops and veterans.
While still in its initial launch phase, Dream Machines are now available in 14 states across the U.S., and PepsiCo has a couple of pending partnerships - to be announced in the New Year - that will expand those machines to even more places.
Dream Machines are rolling out at a high rate in high-traffic public spaces, such as grocery stores, college campuses, stadiums and shopping malls. And PepsiCo isn't limiting its accepted materials to only PepsiCo products in order to boost its own sales.
"The need to recycle is bigger than any one brand," says Cage. The Dream Machine program is not at all intended to capture only our brand of product – the kiosks and bins accept PET bottles and aluminum cans from any provider."
As America Recycles Day is just around the corner, manufactures, retailers and consumers are evaluating their own green scorecard and recycling habits. For Cage, it's all about convenience for the consumer, and making recycling easier and more accessible - no matter the cost - will only benefit the rate in the long run.
"I think the most important motivator is convenience," he says. "By placing Dream Machines where people are, we’re not asking them to change their routine, but rather giving them a convenient option to recycle on the go."
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