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What people are redeeming their RecycleBank rewards points for

City Council received a report the other day on what Tennesseans (mostly in Oak Ridge and Jefferson City) redeemed their RecycleBank rewards points for in April.

My household hasn’t redeemed any of our RecycleBank rewards points yet, and it looks like we’re in the majority — fewer than 1500 rewards were redeemed in April (some by households that got more than one reward).

It was interesting to see what other people are choosing, as it gave me hints on the most attractive “deals.”

After seeing that Kashi products (free items such as granola, granola bars, and pilaf) are the number one choice (more than one in five of the rewards ordered were from this vendor), I looked into their reward offers and decided that we need to use some of our points to try some of their products.

Ruby Tuesday was the second most popular vendor, with some “buy one, get one free” coupons that appealed to nearly 200 Tennessee households during April. Food City was high on the list of popular vendors with their offer to exchange points for reusable cloth shopping bags.

It was great to see Oak Ridge ice cream destination Razzleberry’s in 5th place with a couple of yummy offers to entice people into their Jackson Square store.

Several other Oak Ridge businesses were popular choices, including Moondollars Cafe in Jackson Square, Firehouse Subs, and Venice Pizza. (Do I see a food theme here?)

ADDED June 10: Several people commented on this item over at Facebook. Tom Beehan said he had used some points for the Epicurean, Kelly Ayers said Moondollars has been getting some redemptions, and Cyndy Bailes says she has redeemed points for Moondollars and Naturally Gourmet. That food theme is going strong.



  1. Ray Kircher says:

    Too funny RecycleBill, but we have Guido here in Oak Ridge. He does check the cans and forces people to use Recycle Bank. You are right about the taxpayers flipping the bill. Our city pays around $450,000.00 annually to Recycle Bank so around 1000 homes can use Recycle Bank. That is $2.00 a month more per residence for garbage no matter how you look at it. Since this plan has failed to attract more recyclers, how do you plan to make recycling profitable, RecycleBill? I don’t think there is way to do that, but to buy products that have a return value. After all, consistent and cost savvy people are recyclers anyway. They do not mess with another scam to raise the rates on garbage without a fight. LOL, RecycleBill. I like that name. What was the bill on that? LOL!

  2. Ray Evans says:


    Thanks for the post. Recycling is a big deal in my neighborhood. My guess is about 75% of the homes participate. My wife, daughter and brother-in-law are in hot competition to see who can recycle the most. I’m sure that some may try to cheat the system but all in all this is a real plus for our community. Kudos to you and EQAB on this one.

  3. Ellen Smith says:

    I’m sorry, Ray Kircher, that you don’t like RecycleBank.

    The number of Oak Ridge households participating is far greater than the 1,000 you cite, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well it’s been received. People who never bothered to recycle before seem to get a kick out of the “game” of accumulating points.

  4. RecycleBill says:

    Ray asked, “Since this plan has failed to attract more recyclers, how do you plan to make recycling profitable, RecycleBill?”

    Tune in on July 1 to find out the answer. There is a better way.

  5. LEROY GILLIAM says:




  6. Ray Evans says:

    Always good to hear from you LeRoy.

  7. Ray Kircher says:

    Ellen, how many people participated before Recycle Bank? The amount of money we spend annually, to do little more as a collective than what we were doing before, is no accomplishment to be happy. I’m not knocking recycling, I’m hitting at how Recycle Bank has made us all garbage sorters without the pay those sorters get at the facility. No matter how any city shakes it, it is now our citizen function, to act in deceit is acceptable for this but not for that. Isn’t that a double standard by our government?

    It amazes me that something like garbage makes people want to spend $24 a year to partake. It isn’t anything more than a cover charge at any establishment.

    RecycleBill, after my sore rant, how could garbage become better than how we had it before, recycling at no charge and the citizens were left to help spread the word?

    Hello Lee Roy, good to hear from you, also.

  8. Ellen Smith says:

    I haven’t seen a report on recycling levels recently, but I have heard anecdotes about people who didn’t use to bother to recycle and are now faithfully putting their recyclables into the new cart. Those carts are appreciated by people who couldn’t fit a week’s worth of recycling into their bin.

  9. Ellen Smith says:

    I have some stats on program participation: 86% of households are putting recycling carts out for collection, and 71% of households put them out in any given week. Those are excellent results.

  10. Ray Kircher says:

    What are the stats of diversion? The actual amount of garbage going into our landfill is where we would know if Recycle Bank is worthwhile. You count how much has been recycled in a program geared for customers to cheat, but that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to reduce the amount of trash sent to the landfill, thus reducing our garbage collection cost. Also, how much does the city pay per ton of garbage sent to the landfill? How much was sent before and after RecycleBank?

    This is an interesting comment:

    “The township I live in has an award winning recycling program which includes the pick up of pet food tins. The recycling program also helps to keep our taxes as low as possible.

    If we diverted all of our pet food tins to the RecycleBank then that would result in a decrease of revenue for the township’s recycling contractor, and defeat the purpose of the program.”

  11. Ray Evans says:

    I suspect that the tonnage going to the landfill has been significantly reduced thus reducing the cost somewhat. The cost of the labor and equipment necessary to pick up the waste destined for the landfill likely remains unchanged.

    There are both tangible and intangible benefits of this program. An important intangible benefit is simply developing a sustainability mindset within our community.

  12. Ray Kircher says:

    And what about the storing of recyclables Mr. Evans? Furthermore, I suspect many of the recyclers in Oak Ridge don’t even look at what they buy. How much of the recycled product is being purchased in the stores RecycleBank has coupons with? It isn’t what many recyclers say is a good deal to only sort recycled waste and not buy the product many are saying is the way to save our planet. It is simple, RecycleBank will only save their bankroll by passing the storage and shipping to third world countries costs onto our city council.

    I would suspect all trash has dropped due to the economy, but garbage costs are expected to increase due to storage of recyclables. Next, if Waste Management chooses to dump these recyclables into Landfills, the tax must be paid resulting in a net loss for Waste Management. Then they have the option of dumping this waste in third world countries looking for a quick dollar for filling a hole in the ground, but that isn’t green. Yet it happens. A double edged sword our council has given its citizens while not looking into programs that help Oak Ridgers.

    The best way for our city to recycle is to create and promote our own programs that reduce landfill refuse. No other program would return the benefits of recycling. Why isn’t Waste Management purchasing methane fueled Recycling Trucks? The landfills they dump at are major contributors to climate methane release. What is good for the Goose is even better for the Gander.

    All RecycleBank is good for is to make people feel good while facing higher costs from Waste Management in all of their services. Sad to see Oak Ridge cannot find service for itself by itself. This is the mindset being held from Oak Ridge citizens by a select few who want to feel good. Next on the recycling list, a fine for not sorting your garbage to offset recycled goods storage. The double standard is alive and well in Oak Ridge.

  13. Ellen Smith says:

    Costs of landfilling are paid by Anderson County, not by the City, so getting an accounting is not a straightforward matter. However, as Ray Evans says, the amounts going to the landfill have surely been reduced.

    During the recent economic mess, our local hauler, (Waste Connections) says that recycling costs them more than it used to because markets are soft. The company is absorbing these costs, not their contractual customers (like the City of Oak Ridge).

  14. Ray Kircher says:

    It is sad to see that the few people who do recycle in Oak Ridge have no evidence that garbage going to the landfill have been significantly reduced by this effort. I suspect it has done nothing more than what we were doing before as a city with a paid recycling service.

  15. Ray Evans says:

    Didn’t Gary Cinder Oak Ridge Public Works Director and former councilman Leonard Abbatiello tour the recycle facility in April?


  16. Ray Kircher says:

    That is where it is sorted. This where it is stored, the missing part to Mr. Abbatiello’s story can be found here:


  17. Ellen Smith says:

    Numbers exist regarding how much more material is being kept out of the landfill as a result of RecycleBank. (Numbers were quoted to me yesterday. I don’t remember the specific numbers and I wasn’t in a position to write anything down, but the increase in recycling collections was impressive.)

    The Waste Connections folks assure us that everything they collect in the recycle carts goes to the materials recovery facility, and that it is still being sold. The good news in the last few days is that they say that prices for some recycle materials are beginning to inch back up.

  18. Ray Kircher says:

    “but the increase in recycling collections was impressive”
    Was this due to the expansion of garbage accepted as recyclable?

    5500 tonnes of Lothians rubbish sent for recycling ends up in landfill

    ‘Recycled’ waste dumped in landfill

    “The plastics industry wants people to understand that all plastics are recyclable,” said Davis. “That may be technically possible, but it’s not economically feasible. The high-tech sorting equipment costs half a million dollars apiece. That’s the part they don’t tell you.”

    Ellen, the numbers that are relevant to true Recyclers is the tonnage headed to the Landfill and the products brought home made from recycled goods. It is a two-way street or it doesn’t work. I see very little being done to support the buy recycled product coupons from Recycle Bank. Are we so arrogant to think that one source of filling recycle containers is the accomplishment while not filling the other source of buying goods made from recycled goods? How long will this extra garbage charge continue while Oak Ridgers and our own government will not buy recycled goods? Furthermore, I doubt we will see a lesser cost from landfill charges if anyone told Anderson County to reduce our garbage fees because we divert garbage via RecycleBank. RecycleBank is an incentive to cheat program, and Anderson County knows that RecycleBank has no bearing on how much to charge Oak Ridgers for landfill usage.

    So nobody can get the amount of Garbage we send to the landfill; why does anyone think RecycleBank will reduce the amount of Garbage going into our landfill without those numbers?

    The cost of our recycling program goes to infrastructure and jobs located in Knox County. How much do we need to recycle to cover the amount of raw materials used to build this program, and how much used was from recycled goods? Without the other end of this issue, Oak Ridgers will face even more costs of maintaining a recycling program while our landfill is continually filling with garbage that should be going to the multi-million dollar facility and trucks. More needs to be done; RecycleBank needs to provide more coupons for goods made from recycled materials, help by informing us of landfill tonnage from our community, show us how much RecycleBank throws away and why, show us how our work and payments have covered their costs since they have an oil and tree meter for Mother Naure showing how we have recovered what they use in raw materialfor our program, expand their program to include electronics, appliances, any metal from nails and screws to transportation parts used in our Central Services Complex.

    I’m not against recycling, just showing how much we spend to do so little.

  19. Ray Kircher says:

    show us how our work and payments have covered their costs (since they have an oil and tree estimate meter for Mother Naure) showing how we have recovered what they use in raw materials for our program

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