Annals of Greenwash: Recyclebank

wolfsheep Recycling is the capitalist’s favorite (and only) green idea. It obliterates the question of what gets produced in the first place and points the finger at the end, rather than the beginning, of the product life cycle. It makes the behavior of “consumers,” not capitalists, the topic of concern. It implies that mere gestures are enough.

Hence, it was probably inevitable that some jerk would invent the idea of Recyclebank, the Philadelphia-based Trojan Horse for corporate ecocide.

Here’s how it works: Customers who sign-up with RecycleBank receive a special container embedded with a computer chip. Every time the recycling truck comes for a pickup, it records the weight of the bin and transmits it wirelessly to an online account. Homeowners accrue up to $35 worth of credits a month based on the amount of recycling they do.

The credits, in turn, can be turned into coupons that can be redeemed at more than 300 retailers, including Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Rite Aid. [Source: Forbes]

How green is what Recyclebank does?

First of all, its system pays people more “points” for more mass in the recycling bin, meaning higher overall product-usage rates are encouraged, not discouraged, by Recyclebank.

Of course, how else would its corporate partners — Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Dow Chemical, Target, Home Depot, etc. — have it?

Moreover, despite its condescending and cynical prattle about being “a group of passionate people who’ve made it our mission to inspire others to take action – small to big – that will have a positive impact on our planet,” Recyclebank is also a double shill: It pre-empts both pay-as-you-throw trash programs and bottle bills, the latter undoubtedly one of the reasons why Coca-Cola is a Recyclebank “partner.”

All the while, what do the entrepreneurs running Recyclebank really, truly think about the “consumers” they profess to care so deeply about? The usual:

In fact, advertising is a big piece of [CEO] Gonen’s strategy. As RecycleBank rolls out nationally in the next couple of years – look for a debut in some Manhattan apartment buildings this winter – he’ll have collected the names, addresses and buying habits of hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions of people.

At that point, Recycle Bank will have a database of loyal customers who manage accounts online and can be targeted by advertisers. If nothing else, it should become a place where companies can sell to “green” consumers, says Gonen.

“The core of this company is the ability to target and market to a captive audience that feels good about what they are doing,” he said.

How to Help Plastic!

greenwash The greenwashers over at RecycleBank, a new marketing front that “rewards” its victims users by sending them more junk in exchange for swallowing corporate green shopping dogma and making tiny gestures with their old junk, are devoting a whole webpage to the topic of “how we can help plastic make a better impact.”

This tortured, whorish double-talk is of a piece with the rest of RecycleBank’s attempted assault on the public mind.

“There’s no denying that the invention and eventual widespread use of plastic was a major advance for society,” says RecycleBank, complete with a supporting weblink to “The Benefits of Plastic” on –wait for it — plasticsindustry.com!

After listing some beneficial uses of plastic, RecycleBank delivers the core proposition:

While a huge benefit of plastic is its durability, this very property is also sometimes a downside — some plastic takes centuries to break down, taking up more room in landfills for a longer time.

This, of course, is absolute malarkey.  The chief problem with plastics is not their durability, but their grossly excessive use as packaging by corporate capitalists.  Nobody denies that plastic has a place in the world.  What people are rightly concerned with is why there is so god-damned much of the stuff being heedlessly made and sold.

But that concern is exactly what greewash marketing like RecycleBank exists to massage into tame, misconceived channels.  What we need and ought to be demanding is access to the macro-economic decisions that determine when and where plastic gets used.  What we get instead from RecycleBank and its paymasters is two things:

1. the fiction that recycling could ever compensate for the consequences of those macro-level choices, over which the public remains utterly powerless; and

2. the transfer of all responsibility onto “consumers,” among whom Recycle Bank positively encourages “green guilt.”

Oh, and the sponsor of the RecycleBank plastics “awareness” mindfuck?

Naked Juice, the “healthy” plastic-bottling subsidiary of PepsiCo.