Istanbul, Turkey has come up with a revolutionary incentive for recycling. Commuters can now earn transport credit in exchange for recycling waste.

A city subway station in Istanbul has inaugurated reverse vending machines that recycle used aluminum cans and plastic bottles in return for train fare. The İTÜ-Ayazağa metro station in Maslak, the city’s second-largest financial district, now takes recyclable cans and bottles as train fare. Istanbul’s local government and an IT company called Isbak have initiated the reverse vending machines at the station earlier this October to promote recycling among residents.


“With these smart machines, our waste management department and the municipality’s Smart City Technologies Company will contribute to the protection of the environment,” Istanbul’s Metropolitan Municipality said last month when they announced the initiative.

To charge your transportation pass, known as the Istanbul Card, you simply feed the reverse vending machines recyclable plastic bottles and aluminum cans. The machines crush, shred and sort recyclable waste. According to the New York Times, Istanbul wants to add 100 more machines at 25 other locations, including schools and universities before the end of the year.

The system doesn’t give away credit though. It takes quite a bit of waste to accumulate enough credit for a free trip. For a 0.33-litre plastic bottle, you will earn two kurus credit, a 0.5-litre bottle will get you three kurus in credit, and a 1.5-litre bottle will give you nine kurus. The average subway journey costs roughly 2.60 Turkish, therefore, you will need to crush at least 28 1.5-litre bottles to earn enough credit for a free ride. An average 0.5-litre can, however, will add nine kurus credit to your card.

The credit can be used anywhere that Istanbul Cards are accepted, including buses, trams and even public toilets in the city.

According to a 2017 report by the UK consultancy group Expert Market, Turkey is the third-largest European producer of household and commercial waste, and it is also the worst at recycling among European nations. A recent recycling drive has been somewhat successful though.

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According to the undersecretary for the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry Mustafa Ozturk, nearly 30 million trees have been saved over the past 15 months, and more than half of all the plastic bottles in the country were recycled last year, while 1.87 million tons of paper waste and cartons were recycled.