Greenbean Recycle, located in Somerville, MA, creates physical networks of "recycling machines" for individuals/teams to make money and compete while recycling!

A Greenbean machine is a reverse vending machine (RVM) often seen in grocery stores to deposit bottles and cans.

"Zoe", the Greenbean machine in the MIT Student Center

The Greenbean machine differs from traditional RVMs in that it:

  • Makes a direct payment for refund bottles either via Paypal, your school ID cash card or to a charity (you decide when you register online)
  • Gives you real-time data of the energy benefit of recycling the containers instead of tossing them in the trash (using EPA's Individual Waste Reduction Model - iWARM)
  • Tells you how you (or your team) is performing as compared to your community (Greenbean creates "challenges" within and eventually among networks to instill friendly competition).

Moreover, the Greenbean machine intelligently separates glass, plastics, and aluminum, which are then sent directly to baling facilities - eliminating the need to send materials to sorting facilities and the energy needed to sort the materials.  And the machine notifies the facilities when the bin is full to avoid unnecessary pickup.  Like BigBelly Solar.  In fact, BigBelly Solar is one of their advisors.  Nice partnership!

Currently, Greenbean has launched their RVM system at MIT, and will soon expand to Tufts and other universities, and eventually plans to expand to stadiums, airports, festivals - anywhere with high density of recyclable materials.

I made an account for the MIT network and here's a look at who's recycling at MIT:

Containers recycled at MIT, organized by "team".

Fraternities are leading the way on recycling?!?  Wow!

The Greenbean model is another interesting use of gamification to motivate people to recycle and/or be more energy efficient- like RecycleBank, Simple Energy, and Opower.  But this model focuses on physical networks and targeting networks with pre-existing strong communities (re. universities).  Awesome.