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  • Writer's pictureWorld Half Full

Plastic bottle for free public transport


Rome is encouraging commuters to swap used plastic bottles for free public transport. Under Ricicli+Viaggi (or Recycle+Travel), commuters who recycle empty plastic bottles via a designated compactor will then earn accrued credit points, redeemable as free digital travel tickets. A standard ticket, which is good for one metro ride or 100 minutes on a Roman bus, and usually costs about €1.50, can be traded for 30 empty plastic bottles.

A 2017 study, conducted by consultancy group Expert Market, found that Italy ranked fourth on the Most Wasteful European Countries list. Rome is notorious for its dysfunctional waste management. After years of neglect and with only three major landfills — one that closed in 2013 and the other two ravaged by frequent fires — the city’s streets are spewing with refuse.

Both tourists and residents have long complained of garbage littering ancient monuments, burgeoning vermin infestations and the lack of a sanitation strategy as successive mayors from different parties have struggled unsuccessfully to resolve the waste crisis.

“The situation has been quite disastrous,” said Stefano Ciafani from the environment group Legambiente. “Rome has failed to create an efficient system for differentiated waste collection, as Milan has done, and it has not built the recycling plants that are fundamental for a city where three million people live.”

Rome’s new mayor Virginia Raggi is hoping to change all that and move the city in a more positive, eco-friendly direction. Although Ricicli+Viaggi is still in its infancy and there are only three metro stations in Rome offering recycling compactors, more than 350,000 bottles have been recycled so far.

Similar programs already operate in both Beijing and Istanbul. And in Indonesia, the city of Surabaya allows commuters to ride city buses by either dropping off their plastic bottles and cups at terminals or use the plastic items to pay their fare directly. A two-hour bus ticket costs up to five plastic bottles or 10 plastic cups, depending on the size. The city hopes this scheme will help it meet its target of becoming free of plastic waste by 2020.

According to Reuters, 15 percent (just over 350 tonnes) of Surabaya’s daily waste is plastic. Data also show that one bus can collect up to 250 kilos of plastic each day, totalling about 6.8 tonnes a month. After collecting the plastic waste, workers remove labels and bottle caps before the plastic is sold to recycling companies. This money then goes toward bus operations and to fund urban green spaces.

The head of Surabaya’s transportation department, Irvan Wahyu Drajad, said Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest contributors of plastic waste, and the city hopes this new system will raise public awareness of plastic pollution.

ABOVE A commuter using Rome’s Ricicli+Viaggi reverse vending machine to pay for a train ride

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