Random Return Rewards


Used coffee cups are placed into a machine that rewards the recycler with a "random" credit from 20c to $1000.

Cups are printed with a unique QRcode or similar (no extra manufacturing costs) - and cost the coffee consumer a small extra fee (eg 25c).
Collection machines (like reverse vending machines) are placed near stores and bus stops etc.  The machines accept the empty cups, read the code and return to the collector a voucher for (eg) 20c or credit on a collector card for the full subsidy (eg 25c) - effectively meaning that the customer "doing-the-right-thing" by returning the cup pays no extra for the program.

Why use a machine?

  • Rewards can be claimed 24/7
  • Doesn't delay counter staff
  • No stigma associated with collecting rewards.

Why dispense vouchers or card value?

  • No money in machine reduces likelihood of vandalism
  • Value may only be redeemable at participating stores - encouraging repeat custom.
  •  Rewards could be customised to particular stores/areas to encourage repeat custom and/or encourage rewards to be used on eg healthy food (rather than alcohol etc) or could even dispense eg rail/metro tickets.
  •  Higher-value returns on a reusable card means less single-use paper vouchers are dispensed and therefore the machines need less attention in re-stocking etc
  • Reduces likelihood of user trying to scam the machine

Why use a code?

  •  codes can simply be printed during the normal production process - negligible increase in production cost.
  • individual codes can track the success of the program by monitoring where cups are returned etc
  • Individual codes reduce the chance of the system being hacked with forged cups
  • Enables cups to only be returned 'once' (there's no point breaking the machine to steal already-returned cups)
Random rewards
  • introducing a random element - eg where random cups return higher value ($1, $100 or maybe even $1000) introduces a strong emotional incentive to participate that is also fun. 
  • Customers are far more likely to participate if there is a chance that their cup could return $100 or more. 
  • This random element is easily subsidised by the many thousands of returned cups that only return the minimum (eg 20c) reward and those that aren't returned (but for which the customer paid a (eg 25c) subsidy
  • Along with the usual reward, it would be possible to offer that (eg) one in every 10 cups wins a coffee: particularly as it only costs Starbucks the wholesale (not retail)  amount - however, I'd prefer that the machine gives store credit or food vouchers so that homeless people, kids (or anyone) collecting cups are able to claim non-coffee sustenance.
Developing/paying for the infrastructure:
  •   Each cup costs the consumer 25c extra upfront, but they get that 25c back if they return the cup: so effectively it costs nothing for recyclers and 25c for non-recyclers:   (it is actually the wasteful non-recyclers that subsidise the whole scheme : they are spending 25c extra and not claiming it back).  �that 25c X millions of customers would pay for the vending machines and the ability to offer random bonus prizes of big money.  The odds would probably support that for every 100 cups wasted you could offer a single $15 random reward and still pay for the machines and regular payouts� and across the US you�d be talking hundreds of thousands (or millions) of cups a day.
The true benefits of this program:
  • It costs the recycling user no extra.
  • It costs the non-recycling user only a fraction more
  • It costs providers very little (or nothing if creatively marketed and/or based on return vs. subsidy rate)
  • The users that don't recycle are effectively subsidizing a scheme that can clean up the city, provide food for the homeless and encourage recycling all at once.
  • Is fun to participate in
  • Could easily be adapted to accept other (non-coffee-cup) items such as bottles, cans, etc and therefore keep the streets even cleaner and encourage more recycling
  • Could easily be adapted to return different beneficial rewards (food stamps, book vouchers, phone credit, train tickets, itunes credit etc) and therefore appeal to a wide variety of sponsors.
  • Doesn't rely on users remembering to travel with a cup
  • Doesn't even rely on coffee drinkers to have a beneficial impact (ie, students/homeless/anyone has an incentive to participate)
  • Doesn't rely on new production methods

Other entries in this project