Rome’s Mayor Virginia Raggi recently unveiled an eco-friendly pilot initiative that is gaining popularity in the Eternal City. Called “Ricicli + Viaggi” (or the “Recycle + Travel” program), consumers who recycle empty plastic bottles earn credits toward free public transportation travel tickets.

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How does it work? Commuters who recycle empty plastic bottles via a designated compactor will then earn accrued credit-points, redeemable as free digital travel tickets. For a standard ticket, one must recycle 30 empty plastic bottles. That same standard ticket, which is good for one metro ride or 100 minutes on a Roman bus, costs about 1.50 euros.

Related: Indonesia accepts plastic bottles in exchange for free bus rides

The environmentally friendly campaign is widely appealing for good reasons. Empty plastic bottles no longer have to accumulate on Roman streets, and the travel tickets awarded are digital rather than paper. In other words, litter is minimized.

Many Romans approve of this new way to save cash, and it couldn’t come at a more critical time. A 2017 study, conducted by consultancy group Expert Market, found that Italy ranked fourth among The Most Wasteful European Countries. The Eternal City has gained notoriety for its dysfunctional waste management. With only three major landfills — one that shut down in 2013 and the other two ravaged by frequent fires — Rome has since been spiraling into decline with refuse spewing all over the streets after years of neglect.

Both tourists and residents have long complained about the garbage littering ancient monuments, the burgeoning vermin infestations and the lack of sanitation strategy as successive mayors from different parties have struggled unsuccessfully to resolve the Italian capital’s waste crisis. Prior to the trash-for-tickets program, recycling was patchy and very inefficient.

“The situation has been quite disastrous,” president of environmental group Legambiente Stefano Ciafani said. “Rome has failed to create an efficient system for differentiated waste collection, as Milan has done, and it has not built the recycling plants that are fundamental for a city where three million people live.”

But there has been a ray of hope ever since Raggi entered office in 2016 as the first female mayor in Roman history. While Raggi has had a stormy start battling deeply entrenched ways, this new pilot initiative of swapping plastic for transit credits is a step in a more positive, eco-friendly direction.

Of course, with Ricicli + Viaggi still in its infancy, there are at present only three public transportation metro stations in Rome offering the recycling compactor machines. Despite that, more than 350,000 bottles have been recycled so far, and it is hoped the numbers will continue to rise.

Raggi happily shared, “We are the first major European capital to present this innovation.”

The Eternal City’s roll-out follows at the heels of similar programs already in place in both Beijing and Istanbul.

+ Ricicli + Viaggi

Via BBC and

Image via Juan Enrique Gilardi