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    Cans and Bottles for Electricity

    By Keith R | January 22, 2007

    Topics: Waste & Recycling | 1 Comment »

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    I just read a fascinating article in an online regional news service in Brazil. “Material reciclável pode ser trocado por desconto na fatura de energia” in yesterday’s edition of RMT Online discusses an innovative approach to encouraging people to recycling used packaging. I’ve heard of many experiments in Brazil and elsewhere to encourage people, especially poorer populations, to get involved in recycling, such as exchanging recyclables for food vouchers, or bus or subway tickets. But this is an interesting twist.

    The “Vale Luz” (“Power Voucher”) program launched last year by the state government of Mato Grosso has set up booths in the parking lots of participating supermarkets. Consumers can bring their empty drink cans and bottles to the booth. The booth attendant weighs the recyclables and then issues the consumer a voucher for a discount on their electric bill equal to the purchase value of the recyclables. In the state capital Cuiabá, for example, each kilogram of empty aluminum drink cans gains a R$2.50 discount, and every kilogram of empty plastic bottles gains a R$0.22 discount.

    Some of my North American and European readers may be scratching their heads and wondering what the consumer does with such a voucher, since they are accustomed to paying their electric bill by post or even via online banking. In many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), however, power bills are paid either directly at a local office of the power utility or through a bank branch or even a supermarket authorized to take utility payments. In this case, the voucher is used to pay the electric bill at the supermarket.

    The collected material is sent to a Recycling Center in Cuiabá, where it is sorted and rejects and contaminants removed. Scrap cans are sent to a recycling plant in São Paulo state, while scrap bottles are used as primary material for plastics operations closer to home.

    Reportedly in the seven months (June-December 2006) the program has been underway, it has collected 2.381 metric tons of cans and 2.243 metric tons of plastic bottles and has paid out about R$6,324 (about US$2,967 at current exchange rates) in electric bill discounts. That may not sound like much in New York or Tokyo or London, but in Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, that’s a good start.

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    One Response to “Cans and Bottles for Electricity”

    1. Leila Says:

      Wow, that’s so much cooler than ConEdison’s green plan where they charge you extra to ease your conscience!


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