Lesser S’poreans Use Recycling Vending Machines After Rewards Drastically Reduced


Remember those recycling vending machines aka reverse vending machines at places like Our Tampines Hub?

It was first announced on 31 October that 50 smart vending machines would be installed islandwide at heartland areas near NTUC FairPrice outlets.

This initiative was a collaboration between the National Environment Agency NEA) and food and beverage company F&N.

This was with the hope of encouraging locals to recycle their used plastic bottles and aluminium cans.

Up till four days before, a long line could be seen at the vending machines, with hoards of people eager to save the world and recycle.

However, apparently the hype was shortlived.

Lesser S’poreans Use Recycling Vending Machines After Rewards Drastically Reduced

Why do you ask?

Well, since Friday, recyclers have only been given $0.20 in NTUC Fairprice vouchers in exchange for depositing 20 items.

That’s five times the amount they’d have to donate in the past.

Previously, Singaporeans only had to recycle four items to get the same amount of vouchers.

When CNA contacted NEA and F&N to find out why the incentives were greatly reduced, they responded saying that the trial was to observe and figure out what the best way was to encourage changes in behaviour towards more recycling.

They also mentioned that they were “continuously reviewing” ground results and testing different types of incentive systems to encourage recycling.

Image: Tenor

I say just revert back to the old reward scheme.

NEA & F&N said, “The most ideal outcome is if the recycling action is motivated intrinsically and second nature. However, for a start, some incentives may be helpful to nudge the right recycling behaviour, and we will continue to tweak the incentive system to bring about the desired outcomes.”

They also hope that as time passes, Singaporeans will take the initiative to recycle with the intention of saving the earth, instead of to receive incentives.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser doesn’t quite agree with this sentiment and said, “Once the rates are reduced, it would not be worth the while queuing up, and we could expect the numbers to fall drastically, unless people eventually internalise the intrinsic value of recycling and make it a lifestyle, with or without monetary incentives,” he said.

I guess at its core, we still need to address the need to change our mindset towards recycling and saving the earth, before initiatives like these can really flourish.

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