PepsiCo's new recycling program billed as a win, win, win

The message of a new PepsiCo-sponsored recycling program: Give us your plastic bottles and aluminum cans and get free stuff! (And do something nice for disabled veterans).

PepsiCo and its partner, mega-recycler Waste Management, announced Wednesday afternoon that they will place thousands of high-tech recycling kiosks across the United States that will ply consumers with goodies and good feelings.

The kiosks will accept plastic bottles and aluminum cans and spit out coupons that are tailored to the retail location: perhaps a coupon for a drink at a gas station or a free hat at a football stadium.

Consumers will also be able to accrue rewards with each bottle; key fobs will synchronize with the recycling machines and track each donation. Consumers will be able to claim their gifts, such as restaurant coupons and deals on rental cars, at greenopolis.com.

Besides warm and fuzzies, what's in it for PepsiCo? The company will have access to the bottles and cans after they are recycled. PepsiCo, the main competitor to Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, says it is the beverage industry's leader in using recycled content in its beverage containers. But it wants to get its hands on more recycled materials. To that end, it's employing altruism and acquisitiveness.

The more plastic people recycle, the more cash PepsiCo will donate to an entrepreneurial "boot camp" for wounded veterans to help them learn how to start their own businesses. Hence the name of the 3,000 new kiosks to be rolled out this year: "Dream Machines."

PepsiCo is "trying to tap into the inherent goodness of people throughout the country," said PepsiCo's Jeremy Cage, leader of the initiative.

When it comes to recycling, straight altruism may not be quite enough. The problem, as PepsiCo and other beverage companies see it, is that many municipalities lack adequate recycling facilities. Plus, many public places lack the bins to let people recycle their trash on the go. Plastic recycling rates are around 34 percent in the U.S. PepsiCo wants to boost that to 50 percent.

The new program "makes good business sense," said Cage. When it comes to recycled plastic, he said, "We’d take as much as we can get."