Virginia Raggi, Mayor of Rome, and Rome's transport service, Atac, launched a recycling initiative in metro stations across the city where you can deposit plastic bottles to be recycled in exchange for public transport ticket credits.
Rome has long been struggling with a waste problem with bins overflowing and with Italy having the highest levels of bottled water consumption in Europe, an initiative to curb plastic waste was desperately needed. Furthermore, Rome was facing an issue with fare-dodging on public transport. With this new initiative, both problems could be tackled while encouraging public transport use and recycling simultaneously. Each bottle recycled earns the recycler €0.05 off their transport, with thirty bottles being worth a standard €1.50 fare.
Similar initiatives have already been set up in Instanbul and Surabaya in Indonesia to tackle the issue of plastic waste and litter. Recycling deposit schemes are widely used across Europe where recyclers receive a cashback for returning their recyclable packaging to deposit stations and shops.
However, plastic recycling is an expensive process with a large carbon footprint from the cleaning process that is often needed. Because of this, plastic sent to be recycled often ends up being sent to landfill or incinerated. While this initiative will hopefully recycle more of Rome’s plastic waste and get people using public transport more often, the question remains whether plastic consumption and waste will reduce overall when you can now pay for transport by consuming plastic. While this initiative is a great place to start, this shouldn’t be the end solution in the fight against plastic waste in Italy.