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What’s Up with Beverage Recycling Rates?

It’s easy right? Everyone does it. So we thought, until learning that national recycling rates of beverage containers is roughly 30%.  Seeing an opportunity for improvement, Honest Tea built a 30 foot tall recycling bin last April and placed it in New York’s Times Square for one day, offering rewards for recycling. The response was so encouraging that since then, we’ve taken the bin to cities around the country as a recycling “beacon,” inspiring conversation and action that we hope will help boost rates. The Great Recycle is off to a good start, having collected and recycled more than 65,000 beverage containers – but there is still more work to be done.

Recently the 30-foot tall bin and brand new, 12-foot tall recycling bin made appearances in Washington, D.C., Dallas and again in New York City, and we are taken aback by the commitment and drive many people demonstrated at The Great Recycle events.

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Union Station, Washington DC


The Great Recycle – Union Square, Washington D.C.

On April 17th and 18th, in our nation’s capital (not far from Honest Tea HQ) we staged The Great Recycle outside of Union Station—a landmark building used by Washington commuters, visited by tourists, and housing shopping and eating establishments.  While people gawked at our 30 foot tall bin and inquired about what was happening, word of our activity spread quickly.

Seeing a teachable moment about recycling, one woman took her son on a hunt around D.C. to collect empty beverage containers so the bottles and cans could be recycled and redeemed for cool items in our on-site recycling store.  Over the course of both days, we were also visited by different groups of people who spent the previous days collecting beverage containers to bring down. Our friends at Roti USA, a local Mediterranean restaurant, got in the spirit of the day by bringing down over 250 bottles to be recycled and providing catering rewards redeemable in our recycling store.  Scores of school children, accompanied by their teachers, came with thousands of bottles and had some fun trying to get their bottles over the top of the 30 foot high bin.  We were also visited by a couple from Maryland who held a party the weekend before and brought enough beverage containers to redeem a bicycle. Those types of stories helped us get the word out and make a difference in our community.

After the two days were over Washingtonians true colors came shining through recycling more than 14,300 beverage containers as part of our Great Recycle.

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Don’t mess with recycling and Texas


The Great Recycle – Earth Day Dallas

Everything is bigger in Texas, and our oversized 12-foot recycling bin is no exception.  Dallas marked the next point of our recycle journey and the debut of our new recycling bin. Partnering with Earth Day Dallas on April 20th and 21st, we invited the city and surrounding communities to bring us their recycled bottles and exchange them for cool items like yoga mats, organic cotton t-shirts and other great goodies.

One enthusiastic person brought us 750 bottles to recycle on the back of his bicycle—how he fit all of them in the trailer featured above remains a mystery.  He went home with a brand new bamboo longboard by Element Skateboards.  After hundreds of great conversations around recycling, thousands of ice-cold beverages served, and lots of goodies redeemed, Texans brought us more than 7,000 beverage containers to recycle.

Shot from on top of the W Hotel, Union Square
Shot from on top of the W Hotel, Union Square


The Great Recycle – Earth Day NY, Union Square

Next stop: the Big Apple.  Just in time for the Earth Day New York festival on April 21st, the 30-foot tall bin was set up in the heart of Union Square.  Thousands of people came over to check out the activity.  Two college students in particular wowed us with their recycling efforts–they visited our tent early in the morning to stake out the best items in the recycle store, then went to work collecting empty beverage containers.  By afternoon they had recycled over 1,000 bottles and went home with new Jamis bikes.  What an amazing feat!

At the end of the day, New Yorkers demonstrated their commitment to recycling by bringing down over 13,000 beverage containers.  Special thanks to 5boro Recycling and Envipco, our recycle partners who helped us count every bottle collected and ensure the containers were recycled in accordance with New York City recycling laws.

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What’s Next 

We still have a long way to go and could use your help along the recycle journey.  Visit our website www.thegreatrecycle.com to stay up to date with where the big blue recycle bin is headed next, and while you’re there join the 43,800 other people who have made a weekly recycling pledges and recycled an old Facebook status update.  If you’re on twitter, join the conversation with #greatrecycle.

So we have to ask­ – as we travel with the big blue recycle bins, what can we do to improve recycling rates locally and nationally?  What is the greatest challenge in your area which needs to be overcome in order to increase that 30% rate?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Thanks for taking the time to make the world a greener place.

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