App to Offer On-Demand Recycling
International Recycling Group, Smart Block collaborate on 'Uber for plastics'
Plastics recycling in Erie is about to go on-demand.
International Recycling Group (IRG) — the New York City-based startup with plans for a $100 million automated plastics recycling facility on Erie's bayfront — recently announced their vision for an app-based recycling collection program that would "guarantee 100 percent of plastic materials in homes and retail establishments will have a recycling or alternative non-landfill end-of-life utility." That includes everything from plastic bags to Styrofoam cups — pick a number, any number.
Partnering with them in this program is UAE-based app developer Smart Block Beverages FZ LLZ, the startup behind ZeLoop, the "eco-friendly app" that incentivizes plastics recycling through a digital token system. App users gather up their plastic bottles, drop them off at their nearest collection center, upload a picture of their good deed, and receive tokens they can exchange for goods and services through various corporate partnerships.
"Imagine being rewarded for effortless recycling at your home – on your schedule," said Mitch Hecht, founder & chairperson at IRG. "Reducing plastic use should be an essential part of all of our lives, but now we can recycle with the confidence that no plastic waste will end up in a landfill — and be rewarded for using a simple app to schedule a curbside plastics pickup."
A pilot program is expected to be launched later this year, with Penn State Behrend providing analysis on composition of materials collected, participation rates, and the net environmental impact of the venture.
IRG CEO Chris Dow says the companies are eager to fill a void in areas where residential recycling pickup has been eliminated or reduced. "In communities where services have been cut, this offers an opportunity to be part of a revolutionary plastic recycling solution. Curbside pickup, or front door pickup for those that need assistance, will allow people to couple their reduction and reuse efforts with recycling once again."
As positive as IRG's initiatives sound, concerns among environmentalists remain, particularly regarding the logistics. Less desirable forms of plastic will be shredded into flakes and transported to Nanticoke, Ontario to be used as a coke substitute in steelmaking — the threat of these flakes escaping and contaminating Lake Erie has left some, such as PennFuture clean water advocate Sarah Bennett, feeling apprehensive.
Nonetheless, the app Hecht has touted as an "Uber for plastics" could prove instructional to how other recycling programs are managed.
Matt Swanseger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org