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New program rewards recyclers in Salem, other cities

Novak Sanitary Service worker David Polcari drops off a recycling bin at a Salem residence Friday morning. The new bins, each containing a special numeric code, are part of the RecycleBank program, which rewards participants with points that can be redeemed at national and local businesses. (Laura Wehde/Republic)

SALEM -- Starting this month, Salem residents who recycle can earn points to be redeemed at national and local businesses.

Residents who participate in the new RecycleBank program will also be able to put all of their recyclables in one container, rather than sorting them. So far, about 30 residents have signed up.

The New York-based program uses electronic equipment on trucks and collection containers to weigh recyclables and award points to customers.

Through an agreement with Novak Sanitary Service in Sioux Falls, the program is currently in use in 15 towns in the state. Salem is the most recent addition to the list. New containers were distributed Saturday to 32 Salem households that volunteered to participate in the program.

"The push was to get people to recycle and get rewards for it," said Lori Heumiller, Salem finance officer.

Since its inception in 2004, the program has expanded to include more than 1 million people in 24 states.

Other towns served in South Dakota include Baltic, Brandon, Centerville, Chancellor, Colton, Crooks, Davis, Dell Rapids, Harrisburg, Hartford, Hurley, Parker, Tea and Viborg.

Melody Serafino, publicist for RecycleBank, estimated that more than 315,000 tons of material have been collected through the program.

While customers appreciate the points earned through the program, Serafino said many became involved as a way to stop sorting their recyclable material into separate bins.

"Recycling is a really easy step that everyone everywhere can do but, a lot of times, people feel frustrated because they don't know how they're supposed to sort their recycling," Serafino said. "This makes it really easy for them."

Earned points can be redeemed at national and regional franchises such as Subway and Hy-Vee, but Serafino said efforts are also under way to involve local businesses.

Butch Hanssen, divisional sales manager for Novak Sanitary Service, said two Salem businesses have agreed to participate in the program, although he did not release their names.

"We want to have more partners in the city of Salem," Hanssen said.

Hanssen said those involved with the program are happy with it, and he's hoping to expand the program throughout communities served by Novak Sanitary Service.

"We have not had a customer say they have not liked it," Hanssen said.