Providing Recycling Solutions For The MBTA

On the MBTA, Bostonians know that their Charlie Cards will allow them to 'ride forever' under the city's streets. In celebration of the T's new public space recycling program, VIPs, the media, and the public gather.

With a new recycling pilot program, the MBTA is allowing patrons' water bottles, cans, and paper refuse to ride forever as well. You might want to consider recycling your plastic bottle in a recycling bin made of 97% recycled plastics that have been ground, cleaned and extruded to create a beautiful, durable recycling bin. In this way, patrons' bottles could become bins in their own right, catching bottles at another T station.

MassRecycle, in partnership with the Massachusetts Beverage Association, the MBTA, and Casella Recycling, launched the pilot project on September 23, 2015. Together, they devised a recycling kiosk that would generate advertising revenue to fund itself.

The first kiosk they viewed was poorly made and flimsy, so they turned to Trash Cans Warehouse, who partnered with a Wisconsin-based company that recycles plastic into "furnishings that 'close the loop' on unneeded waste."

Using two recycling bins placed back to back, they created an attractive kiosk with a seven-foot signboard. Bins have two sides, one for mixed recycling, cans, bottles, and paper, the other for trash. On the lower third of the signboard are directions for patrons. Approximately two-thirds of the space is devoted to advertising, which will be rented on a monthly basis. Some of the spots will feature a recycling call to action.

Additionally, the kiosks appear in an ad playing at Fenway Park and appearing later on cable channels. MBTA's busy Alewife station was the first to receive two units on September 23. In addition to offering design, marketing, and consulting services, Casella Recycling will service them as well.

What's cool about this?

Quite a lot. This is the first time public recycling has been done in this way. Public sector recycling programs struggle to raise the necessary funds. Creating a revenue stream through ad space sales in T stations with high traffic can fund the purchase of more recycling containers.

It's American-made.

By using color-coded bins, patrons are able to recycle in a consistent, convenient, and aesthetically pleasing manner. There is a pressing need for this in Massachusetts, which is running out of landfill space. It is expected that Massachusetts will have to export over 2 million tons of trash annually by 2020. In Massachusetts, recycling drives 14,000 jobs and 20,000 businesses, creating ten times more jobs than waste disposal.

It's scalable.

Eventually, MassRecycle hopes to have recycling kiosks placed throughout the MBTA system, possibly color-coded to each line, such as red for Red Line, blue for Blue Line, etc. In addition to funding the additional kiosks, the Alewife experience will help guide future design decisions.

It's a model other cities can follow.

Containers linked to advertising kiosks, similar to those used at Yankee Stadium, are a handsome, customizable way to fund and build out public recycling systems. With landfill space becoming scarcer, this will become increasingly important.

In other words, it's cool. If you saw the Alewife kiosk at Fenway on the screen, throw your bottle there, and wave at the recycling kiosk that will appear in another T station shortly. Who knows, your bottle may end up riding forever beneath Boston's streets. Et Tu, Charlie?