From a buddhist temple and a giant christmas tree made of empty beer bottles; through mutant plastic bottles, milk bottles in love or dreaming of a new life; to gamified soft-drink vending machines, recycling slots, dog-food dispensing machines and beer can turnstiles: IS the sky the limit to what creative commitment, innovation, and gamification can do for beverage container recycling?..
If they wind up in a landfill or in the environment, one plastic bottle, one aluminium can, and one glass bottle will take a combined 1,000,500 years to decompose. If recycled, on the other hand, the three will earn you 3 hours of watching TV (power saved by 1 recycled can) by the light of a 60-watt bulb (1 recycled plastic bottle), including 25 minutes on your laptop (1 glass bottle) during the commercial breaks to check emails and social media. 🙂
Yet, despite the rise of corporate social responsibility, the ever higher public environmental awareness and ever increasing government intervention and regulation, beverage packaging recycling rates still fall short of the desired targets. Far too many of us are still too busy, lazy, or unconcerned to make that extra effort and our used bottles end up in the curbside waste bins rather than the recycling containers…
Governments are responding with eco taxes and deposit-refund systems and all the leading beverage companies are trying hard to live up to their corporate social responsibility for instance by using more recycled and renewable materials in beverage packaging (Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle packaging or Carlsberg’s biodegradable ‘Green Fiber Bottle’ are two such innovative projects).
Social advertising has long been producing imagery and copy of astounding beauty, originality and impact but seems to rely more on the ‘fear factor’ than the ‘fun factor’, which is the priority of gamifiers.
As with other complex tasks that ultimately require commitment and sustained efforts from end users, gamification can help get the message across to more people and draw them into the circular economy, which literally aims to keep resources ‘in circulation’ for as long as possible.
The most important obstacle to implementing online gamification schemes for home recyclers is the problematic measurement, which makes it hard to develop an objective digital points system. Gamified recycling schemes and apps have to rely either on self-reporting or on physical checks of waste containers (as in these projects by Coca-Cola in the U.S. and Adur and Worthing Councils in the UK). Because they cannot be fully automated and digitalized, such initiatives are therefore mostly event-based or location-specific promotions.
The generally recognized world leader in the gamification of recycling, Recyclebank, is working directly with some communities and municipalities to collect information and award points based on recycled amounts by the community as a whole. The innovative Canibal platform proposes another solution with its fun recycling ‘slot machine’ for use in public spaces.
Adepts of sustainable green living (and its mantra ‘Reduce, Recycle, Reuse’) are mostly in it for the good karma. It is an intense intrinsic motivation zone hardly needing any extrinsic rewards and incentives. The problem is how to get more people ‘in the zone’; how to raise awareness high enough to produce engagement and lasting eco-friendly behaviors. Information and fun are two paths that gamification can combine into a fast highway to environmental responsibility, including with regard to beverage packaging. And as evident from some of the examples below, vending-machine technology is providing an excellent gamifiable communication vehicle.
Machines Dispensing Recycling Fun, Dreams, and Happiness:
- Volkswagen’s Fun Theory and the Bottle Bank Arcade
- Coca-Cola Happiness Arcade
- Happiness Recycles in 2013 by Coca-Cola Enterprises
- The Pepsico Dream Machine
- Recycle a bottle and feed a stray dog – Istanbul
- Canibal – ‘Making Recycling Fun’
- Antarctica Beer Turnstile
Empty bottles as building blocks and living creatures:
- The Million Bottle Buddhist Temple in Thailand
- Friends of the Earth with a Love Story in Milk
- ‘I want to be recycled’ by Keep America Beautiful
Print campaign by ad agency Father, Costa Rica for Rain Forest, via adsoftheworld.com