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Turkey hopes to tackle trash and traffic with smart solution

Big cities are known to generate a lot of trash and traffic. The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has revealed its plan to tackle both issues with one solution: offering free public transport for the recycling public.

There are about 15 million people living in Istanbul, Turkey’s most populous city. They generate some of 17 000 tonnes of domestic waste every day, of which 6000 tonnes are recycled. At the same time, the city has been dealing with extreme traffic jams – earning it the first place on TomTom’s list of ‘200 of the world’s most congested cities’.

From 25 to 100 ‘smart’ bins

Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality laments that recycling awareness is low. The frustration due to being stuck in traffic, however, is reaching an all-time high. Local legislators therefore launched a special scheme; reverse-vending machines will reward citizens when they turn in their plastic bottles. Not with money, but with free bus, train or metro fare.

The project went live last month, and 25 ‘Smart Mobile Waste Transfer Machines’ have already been installed at various hotspots. This will be expanded to at least 100 such machines by the end of the year.

The smart reverse-vending machines feature an electronic interface that essentially recognises different recyclables, sorts, crushes and store  them. Citizens get a reward based on the value of each item deposited. The credit will be automatically transferred to the person’s ‘Istanbulkart’, which can be used to access public transport.

Chasing best practices

Besides accepting plastic bottles, the system may be expanded to include beverage cans as well. Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality spokespeople point out that other countries that adopted similar schemes have seen an incredible improvement in their recycling best practices. In Lithuania, for example, the recycling return rate increased from less than 35% to more than 90% during the first two years of the reverse-vending project.

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