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Gamification and Rewards for Recycling


Photo of Mitul Sarkar
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In many poorer nations and communities, I've observed people spending their hard-earned money on buying lottery tickets. I realized that for those people, the lottery is a source of hope, and that people are willing to take a few extra steps (or spend money) for hope.
Even when people are incentivized to accumulate their plastic waste for selling by weight to informal or formal recyclers (e.g. the "kabariwallahs" in India, who roam residential neighborhoods and buy up plastic, newspapers, etc by weight),  the small-format plastic items like sachets, wrappers, container lids, etc are often ignored and dumped in the trash.

I believe that if each of those small-format items were to become the equivalent of one entry into a potentially life-changing lottery, or part of a game to accumulate points towards a recycling leaderboard, then many people would take more care in properly accumulating those small plastic items and ensuring they are properly routed for recycling. 

It is likely that such an initiative needs a network of establishments or acceptance locations for the plastics. We must make stakeholders out of the product manufacturers whose packaging is the source of such small-format items. For example, manufacturers could recycle the small format plastics by incorporating them into their products and packaging, similar to recent examples from P&G's Head & Shoulders, Adidas, Pharell Willilam's clothing line, etc.

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

In Use Case #1, waste collectors in the recycling chain are just as overwhelmed as regular household customers when it comes to properly disposing of (and recycling) the plastics of small format packaging.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

What if each bit of small-format plastic waste that you generated or picked up during the day could be laid out on a surface, photographed, and a smartphone app could turn that photograph into a lotto game ticket or a lottery/local raffle ticket at no extra cost to you?

Tell us about yourself

Just one more person hoping our grandchildren will inherit a habitable planet.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Balint Katona

Mitul Sarkar
Hey Mitul!

Very nice, I'm pretty sure gamification will be part of the solution(s)! Take a look at what Cary Howe found out!


Photo of Mitul Sarkar

Hi, Balint and thanks for pointing me to Cary's submission.
I liked Cary Howe's insight that big prizes, even if less frequent, will get consumers more excited about the recycling lottery. I feel, though, that some small prizes should regardless be in the news, too, just to keep up the momentum. One challenge to address is that some small waste (e.g. bottle lids, disposable plastic razor cartridges etc) may not have enough space to put in the barcodes or QR codes that Cary mentioned. But I'm convinced we can together find a way around that.

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