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Another company is offering to help save people money, if they agree to help save the planet. This time, the deal involves exchanging empty plastic water bottles for coupons.

The bad news is that you can’t participate just yet, unless you live in India. But if the idea catches on – who knows?

Indian Railways has installed its first recycling kiosk at a subway station in Mumbai, and plans to set up about a dozen more in stations throughout the city. When a passenger deposits a bottle into the machine, they can request a coupon as a reward. The coupons can be redeemed at local shops, businesses or restaurants, including some well-known purveyors of good authentic Indian fare – Domino’s and McDonald’s.

The initiative is as much about saving the Earth, as it is about saving Indian Railways from having to clean up after thoughtlessly messy passengers. Many plastic water bottles end up strewn around stations or on the tracks, instead of in trash cans or recycle bins.

It’s the latest effort to encourage people to recycle, by plying them with coupons. In 2013, a new program called REMAG launched in Puerto Rico. The company set up kiosks in grocery stores, inviting shoppers to insert newspapers and magazines in exchange for grocery coupons that can be used right in the store.

That program was deemed a success, and has since been expanded to two dozen stores, with major manufacturers like General Mills, Kellogg, Procter & Gamble and Unilever among the companies providing offers. And REMAG is eyeing the mainland U.S. as a possible next stop.

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Whatever it takes to encourage more Americans to recycle. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about a third of all waste generated in the country is recycled. That makes for a recycling rate about half that of some European countries.

So is it better to reward you for recycling, or forcing you to pay up if you don’t?

There’s a third option – paying for programs that reward you for recycling. If that seems counterintuitive, well, that’s what some communities are saying.

Many couponers are familiar with Recyclebank, a company that offers coupons and discounts in exchange for “green actions,” like recycling. If your community participates in Recyclebank’s recycling program, you can earn points that are redeemable for coupons, based on how much your community recycles.

What you may not know, is that you’re likely paying for the privilege of participating. Communities have to contract with Recyclebank, and many pass along the administrative costs of running the program to residents, in the form of higher waste-disposal bills. That’s caused a number of communities to balk, and bail on Recyclebank altogether.

Whether it’s a paper or plastic bottle recycling kiosk that spits out coupons, or a community curbside pickup program that offers coupons of its own, it can cost money to help you save money. Saving the Earth, it seems, doesn’t come cheap.

Photo by danorth1

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