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Michigan Households Get RFID-enabled Rewards for Recycling

An RFID-based incentives system uses EPC Gen 2 tags attached to collection bins, in order to track participation and give out prizes and discounts.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 09, 2009Rewards for Recycling, a Michigan startup launched by Richfield Management (a waste disposal and collection company in southeast Michigan) is putting RFID to work in a system that delivers incentives—such as discounts at local restaurants or retail stores—to households that recycle their trash. Daniel Garman, the company's sales representative, says that since the firm launched the program six months ago, six towns in the state's Genesee and Oakland counties have adopted the program, amounting to 80,000 participating households.

Rewards for Recycling works by tracking how often a household places its recycling bin at the curb for pickup, and then rewarding that household based on how frequently it does so. Local governments cover the costs of deploying the service in their area, using a special assessment that residents pay for trash collection. The monthly collection fees to participate in the program, Garman says, amount to 75 cents per household. It's up to each local community to either absorb the costs or add them to household collection fees.

The system is based on passive EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID tags. Attached to each of two opposing sides of a recycling bin is an Alien Technology Squiggle tag encased in a rugged, adhesive housing, manufactured by label converter Metalcraft.

A bin's two RFID tags are encoded with the same unique ID number. As a recycling truck drives down a collection route, an Alien ALR-9900 Gen 2 RFID reader mounted inside the vehicle reads the unique ID number of each bin's tag. The interrogator is linked to a touch-screen computer that is mounted inside the cab of the truck and contains a GPS receiver. Universal Tracking Systems, based in Orion, Mich., designed the RFID system and helped Rewards for Recycling deploy it. Universal Tracking also developed the software that collects the tag data from the reader and associates each tag read with the truck's GPS coordinates (and, thus, the nearest household) at the time of the reading. The software uses this data to update each household's recycling history in a central database.

Based on this information, Rewards for Recycling then sends the households discounts or other rewards on behalf of local businesses. In addition, special gift certificates and prizes are placed in a raffle, with households that recycle every week having the greatest chance of winning.

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