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RFID Helps Reward Consumers for Recycling

Kraft Foods joins RecycleBank in its use of RFID to track and reward consumers for recycling.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 22, 2008Kraft Foods has signed up with a recycling program that uses RFID technology to track and reward consumers for recycling empty containers. Kraft is the "official food sponsor" of RecycleBank, which has been expanding its offering across the United States with technology to weigh recycling bins as they are lifted into the recycling truck, while also recording whose recyclables are being weighed. The consumer can then use that record to download a variety of coupons and other rewards, based on the amount of recycling theydid.

RecycleBank says it tries to partner with companies that are considered corporate leaders in environmental efforts, with the "official sponsorship" status granted to one industry leader per category. Kraft Foods, which markets dozens of products under its Kraft brand, as well as such well-known products as Maxwell House coffee and Planters nuts, has made a multipronged effort in recent years to reduce the company's environmental impact and support "green" causes. One focus of that effort has been on packaging.

RecycleBank's Ron Gonen demonstrates the company's RFID-enabled bin, which consumer fill with newspapers, cans, glass bottles, plastic containers and other recyclable materials, then leave at a curb to be removed by truck.

"We are looking to reduce the overall use of packaging," says Elisabeth Wenner, Kraft Foods' director of sustainability. By encouraging recycling, she says, Kraft helps reduce the amount of its own and others' product packaging in landfills. "RecycleBank offers an innovative way to make it easy and rewarding for consumers to recycle."

RecycleBank launched its program in Philadelphia in 2006, and has since expanded up and down the Eastern Seaboard, says Ron Gonen, RecycleBank's cofounder and CEO, with 70,000 consumers currently participating and a contract for 250,000 more. The company provides the system to municipalities that use it to enhance their existing recycling programs. The municipalities pay for the service, then make their own decision about whether to bill residents for using it.

Each participant is provided with a plastic RecycleBank bin with an embedded active 134.2 kHz RFID tag in its side. The consumer fills the bin with newspapers, cans, glass bottles, plastic containers and other recyclable materials, then places it at the curb, where a recycling truck uses a mechanical arm to lift the bin and drop its contents into the vehicle. The RFID tag transmits a unique ID number associated with data about the participant in RecycleBank's back-end data system. Each truck's mechanical arm has a RecycleBank weighing scale provided by Avery Weigh-Tronix and McNeilus. The scale weighs the bin and its contents.

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