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In Rome, recycle plastic bottles for transit fares

Thirty bottles will buy you a ticket on the subway or bus.

In an effort to promote recycling and cut down on litter in the streets, the city of Rome has introduced a new initiative called Ricicli+Viaggi, or ‘Recycle+Travel.' People can bring plastic bottles to a metro station, insert them in a machine that crushes and sorts them, and gain digital credits that go toward transit fares.

The machines offer only 5 cents per bottle, regardless so it does take 30 bottles to earn a standard €1.50 fare. That's a whole lot of bottles to haul to the metro station when you're on your way somewhere, but a BBC video about the initiative shows a crowd of people waiting patiently in line. There is something deeply satisfying about saving money, after all.

So far the machines are only available in three stations – Cipro, Piramide, and San Giovanni – but if they prove to be successful over the course of 12 months, the project will be expanded further. Paulo Simoni, president of Rome's public transit network Atac, said,

“In a period in which crypto-currency is talked about, we have plastic currency. Substantially, it's a system in which one recycles, we build customer loyalty, and citizens' virtuous behaviour is rewarded.”

The hope, of course, is that such recycling habits will stick and encourage people to be more mindful of where they toss their trash when they're not lined up for a transit ride.

Rome has been overwhelmed with garbage in recent months, with the chief physician issuing a hygiene alert earlier this summer, saying it “could be upgraded to a health warning, with disease spread through the faeces of insects and animals banqueting on rotting waste.” With one of the city's three landfills closed in 2013, the other two ravaged by fires in recent months, and two biological treatment sites partially closed for maintenance, Romans have seen their trash piling up, despite paying the highest waste collection fees in the country – €597 per person in 2017, compared to €353 in Venice and €266 in Florence.

The Recycle+Travel project is the first such one in Italy, and is similar to ones already established in Beijing and Istanbul. Learn more here (in Italian).

Thirty bottles will buy you a ticket on the subway or bus.