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Bronco Abroad: Recycle-for-change is convenient, addicting

Cody Finney / The Arbtier

An interesting trend in Sweden is recycling drop machines at grocery stores which accept certain plastic, aluminum and glass items. After tallying the refund amount the machines spit out a receipt which is turned in to the cashier for cash or to be put towards any purchases made.

The ease of access and immediacy of savings make this a top option for students looking to save a little. Another option is to save up the receipts until a certain goal is reached so splurging on more luxury purchases—like ice cream—doesn’t dip directly into the food-fund.

Even more convenient than the machine’s location is the route between it and my apartment, which passes straight through the main party zone on campus. Cans and bottles with the proper symbol for the machines to process can be picked up off the ground on the way to the store, easily saving 6-9 kroner per trek. Sunday mornings are especially lucrative.

This convenience can grow out of hand though. When the first thought hearing about a big party in Lyan goes something like “Sweet! Turn in early tonight so I can get to the cans first!” it has gone too far.

If taking the trash out turns into thirty minutes of checking the recycling bins in each trash depot for redeemable items people were too lazy to sort out, it has gone too far.

Digging through hedges to get to the one barely visible can stuck in the snow? Way too far—the scratches on my arms attest to that. One kroner and bleeding fingers do not balance out.

The conclusion is that I have probably taken the recycling for change thing a little past the point of reasonableness. Thankfully my roommate doesn’t redeem her recyclables, so I can steal those without digging through trash cans.

Recycling for change is also available in the States, the only thing is the lack of convenience. For some, walking to the nearest recycling center isn’t an option, so any money made on the trip immediately goes into gas or bus fare. Keeping the recycling centers conveniently located right next to the entrance of major grocery stores makes it easy to remember that recycling for money is a reasonable option.

Also, the machine they use is just cool. They also pay based on individual item rather than weight, so the money you receive per item is its full redeemable value. Not so in the recycling centers I’ve been to back home.

According to other European students, all the Scandinavian countries have a similar system and some European chains offer this option across borders so it’s worth looking into wherever you end up. Getting in the recycle-for-change habit now, with it being so easy to do, makes it more likely I will continue back in the States or at least actually consider the option.

Money being tight is synonymous with attending college. Attending college in a country where the cost of living is quite a bit higher than the States just makes it more painful to buy things that really shouldn’t be skipped, like toothpaste. The pocketbook pinch effect leads to more creative ways of saving or finding money and while recycling-for-change isn’t the most bizarre saving strategy I’ve tried, it’s certainly the most reasonable for the long term.

I have yet to try actual dumpster diving. My trash bin searches have been restricted to the recycling bins already set up near the dumpsters. If I ever get that desperate for a few kroner, it’s time to start looking into student loans.

About Suzanne Craig (0 Articles)
Suzanne Craig is a senior majoring in mathematics and is an online editor for The Arbiter. She recently returned from studying abroad in Sweden.