Waste Management

  • Trash for Tickets - A Win-Win for the Environment?

Trash for Tickets - A Win-Win for the Environment?

Oct 27 2019 Read 682 Times

The city of Rome has taken an innovative step in its bid to clean up its act with regards to waste and plastic pollution throughout the city. Through its +Ricicli+Viaggi scheme, users of the city’s underground subway can exchange empty plastic bottles for credit towards a travel ticket, resulting in a doubly beneficial outcome for the environment.

Not only does it encourage residents and visitors alike to recycle their old single-use plastic bottles, but it also makes public transport that little bit more affordable, increasing usage. As such, the “trash for tickets” incentive is being hailed as the first step in the right direction – but Rome still has a long way to go if it is to catch up with other major cities in Europe and beyond.

The more you recycle, the more you travel

Introduced by the city’s mayor Virginia Raggi in conjunction with its public transport system Atac, +Ricicli+Viaggi allows commuters to bring bags full of old plastic bottles and exchange them for subway credits. The system works via the use of an app called MyCicero. Users scan their personal barcode into a special machine located in subway stations throughout the Italian capital, then feed their empty bottles into it.

For every bottle returned, the user gains 5c of credit. Given that a single journey on Atac costs €1.50, users must recycle 30 bottles in order to purchase one. For those strapped for cash, the scheme provides a great incentive to collect and recycle discarded bottles throughout Rome, while everyday commuters can save money on their daily journey simply by recycling their waste.

A pressing problem

Plastic pollution is a problem that afflicts every part of the globe, with evidence of it even found at the Mariana Trench, the deepest point of the ocean. Once it finds its way into the natural environment, it can persist for many years, only eventually breaking down into even more dangerous microplastic particles. These pose a particular concern because they can be ingested by marine organisms and infiltrate the food chain, potentially affecting humans at a later date.

Italy has an especially poor record when it comes to the effect of plastic waste, given that a recent report found that there were on average 10 pieces of rubbish for every square metre of its 4,720-mile coastline. 81% of that trash is composed of plastic, with single-use bottles being one of the biggest offenders.

A long road ahead for Rome

The trash for tickets initiative has been lauded by environmentalists, who see it as a positive step in the right direction, but the Italian capital still has plenty of work ahead. An insufficient waste disposal infrastructure means that rubbish bins around the city are often overflowing, attracting flies and emitting a stench that is at odds with the ancient splendour of its architecture.

“The situation is quite disastrous. 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,” explained Stefano Ciafani, president of a local environmental group. “If the waste treatment plant is closed and no recycling plants are created on the territory, the waste will continue to be exported outside the region as it is today.”

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