In The NewsRSS

How One Startup Gamifies Recycling for a Greener World

Written by Zoe Fox, Mashable
Published: March 27, 2012

Name: Recyclebank

Big Idea: Recyclebank gives the planet a rewards system using gamification techniques.

Why It’s Working: Recyclebank rewards environmentally friendly actions with points, which are a monetary incentive to recycle. You can also compare your behavior with others on leaderboards in the Recyclebank Ecosystem.


Recyclebank figured out gamification before gamification was gamification.

When Recyclebank was founded six years ago, no one had heard of gamification, the concept of rewarding non-game actions with points, scores or other rewards. Thanks to Foursquare, the popular geo-social network that has gamified exploration, many more of us are familiar with the term.

“I think it’s interesting how the word ‘gamification’ — the application of gaming techniques into non-gaming environments — is in vogue,” Ian Yolles, chief sustainability officer at Recyclebank, tells Mashable. “These techniques make activities more engaging and more interesting to users, and in doing so, it helps surface the process of behavior change.”

Elements of gamification, such as points and rewards, were embedded in Recyclebank from the start, says Yolles. The Recyclebank Ecosystem, as it is now called, rewards you with points for taking online and offline green actions, once it’s received confirmation. The Ecosystem now even includes a leaderboard, so you can compare your actions to others in your community.

In other words, Recyclebank has turned an eco-conscious lifestyle into a game.

“Gaming elements make recycling easy for people to relate to, it provides motivation and it helps put behavior in context of the larger community,” Yolles says. “It’s a sort of emotional engagement — and it’s fun.”

Though Recyclebank started by focusing on curbside recycling, there are now tons of ways to earn points: unplugging appliances, choosing greener products, pledging to take shorter showers, and making green travel decisions, such as carpooling and taking public transportation. You even earn points for purchasing Barnes & Noble Nook books.

You can then redeem points through partner retailers and brands, including Barnes & Noble, Preserve, MillionTreesNYC, thredUP, Earth911, Rent the Runway and UncommonGoods.

Recyclebank is currently active in more than 300 communities across the U.S. Whenever Recyclebank enters a new community, it forges relationships with local businesses so that they become vendors where users can redeem points.

Recyclebank’s latest partnership with sustainable consumer goods company Preserve is an iPhone app, Gimme 5, launched in February. The app places Preserve’s Gimme 5 program into the Recyclebank Ecosystem, rewarding users who check in at locations that recycle No. 5 plastics (the types often found in yogurt containers). Unlike plastics No. 1 and No. 2, No. 5 is accepted in less than 48% of municipalities and rarely recycled for new uses.

To date, Preserve has collected 200 tons of No. 5 plastic yogurt, hummus and cottage cheese containers at Whole Foods markets across the country. Preserve turns recycled Stoneyfield yogurt cartons into toothbrushes, for example, which are sold at retailers such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and the Park Slope Food Coop.

Mashable partnered with Venture Studio to interview Recyclebank co-founder Ron Gonen. Watch the video above to learn more about Recyclebank.

You can also read this article at Mashable.

Media Contacts

Interested in learning a little more about us? 
We're glad to share our story!

For inquiries:

Please note, if you are not a member of the press, you will not receive a response.

TwitterLatest Tweets



Recyclebank At A Glance

New York

New York, Philadelphia and Houston

Javier Flaim


The Coca-Cola Company, Craton Equity Partners, Generation Investment Management, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Paul Capital Investments, Physic Ventures, RRE Ventures LLC, Sigma Partners, Waste Management Inc., and Westly Group

4 Million+

300+ in all 50 states

Reward Partners

In The NewsRSS Press ReleaseRSS