Recycling bins
IRG plans to launch a pilot program where app-based users collect plastic scrap from residents in Erie, Pennsylvania.
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IRG to launch app-based plastics recycling collection program

The plastics recycling company plans to schedule the collection of plastic scrap from residents in Erie, Pennsylvania, using an app-based program.

May 13, 2021

International Recycling Group (IRG), a recycling company developing an automated sorting plant in Erie, Pennsylvania, plans to offer direct, on-demand curbside collection of postuse plastics from homes and commercial establishments in Erie. For the curbside pickup service, the recycler has partnered with SmartBlock Beverages FZ LLZ, a United Arab Emirates-based startup that developed an app called ZeLoop that provides sustainability rewards.

“Imagine being rewarded for effortless recycling at your home on your schedule,” says Mitch Hecht, founder and chair of IRG. “Reducing plastic use should be an essential part of all of our lives, but now we can recycle with the confidence that no plastic waste will end up in a landfill and be rewarded for using a simple app to schedule a curbside plastics pickup.”

According to a news release from IRG, the companies are developing a recycling collection system for household and commercial use that will guarantee 100 percent of plastic materials in homes and retail establishments can be recycled or have a nonlandfill end-of-life utility. The service will include at-home and at-store collections of all forms of plastic.

IRG and SmartBlock say the system will be based on other smartphone-based networks, such as Uber, to match consumers and retail establishments with volunteer collectors to pick up their plastic scrap. IRG says ZeLoop combines “gamification and social media interaction” with a digital currency system involving Eco Rewards, which are exchangeable for other forms of digital currency that can be used to acquire goods and services through corporate partnerships.

“[ZeLoop] is a rewards system for encouraging ‘social gestures’ and, in this case, it’s appropriately doing something with plastic scrap,” Hecht says. “We’re going to work with ZeLoop to create a gig economy-based plastic scrap recycling system. [The app] rewards folks for recycling containers.”

According to IRG, the companies expect to initiate a pilot program of this service in Erie in the summer of 2021. The companies also will work with Penn State University’s Behrend campus in Erie to provide composition analysis and produce a report on the participation rates. IRG says life cycle analysis will be performed on the net environmental impact of the program.

“In communities where services have been cut, this offers an opportunity to be part of a revolutionary plastic recycling solution,” says Chris Dow, CEO of IRG. “Curbside pickup, or front-door pickup for those that need assistance, will allow people to couple their reduction and reuse efforts with recycling.”

Hecht adds that plastic scrap collected in the pilot program will be saved for processing at IRG’s proposed plastic recovery facility (PRF) it is planning to construct in Erie. He adds that he hopes to expand collection to other communities nearby, such as Cleveland or Buffalo, New York.

He says, “Our concept is to use the ZeLoop Platform and to modify it to allow us to create what is essentially a door-to-door, on-demand pickup of 100 percent waste plastics. So, really, the concept here is that if you look at so many recycling collection systems going out of business in towns and municipalities because the [material recovery facility] system is under economic pressure, at the same time, you have more and more emerging technologies for how to handle a wide range and ever-growing range of postconsumer resins. There’s disconnect between costs of recycling collection systems going up at the same time that there’s ever-increasing demand for postconsumer waste plastic. So, that presents us with enormous opportunity to step into the breach and marry a system of regional [plastic recovery facilities] with direct access to residential and commercial generators of this plastic.”