In the town next to mine, there’s a sign outside the municipal building that reads, “Recycling keeps your taxes down.” That’s true. If a town gets paid for the recyclables it picks up instead of having to pay to have recyclable items carted away with the regular trash, it does save the town money and the savings can be passed on to the residents.

I wonder how many people find that as an incentive. It’s not clear how much it saves on taxes. Without a concrete dollar amount, people who don’t already find it important to recycle may not see an unknown amount of money as an incentive.

That’s why I think a program that’s been started in China is brilliant. The capital city of Beijing is testing the program that encourages recycling and let's residents know the exact amount of savings at the moment they recycle. Reverse vending machines have been installed in some subway systems. When someone inserts an empty plastic bottle into the machine, he receives a credit on his subway card. The more plastic bottles inserted, the more credit received.

Last week my family and I took the rail line that runs between South Jersey and Philadelphia into the city to take in some holiday sites. The round trip cost the four of us $22.00, about the same as the bridge toll and parking would have cost. I don’t find it an unreasonable amount, but if I could have paid for all, or even part, of that by recycling plastic bottles, I would definitely have been lugging a couple of reusable bags full of empties into the train station.

Would you take your recyclables to a subway or train station to trade in for public transportation credits?

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Reverse vending machine turns plastic bottles into subway credits
In Beijing, commuters offset public transportation costs by putting plastic bottles into a vending machine that gives subway credits for each bottle.