Tokenisation of recycling incentives

Tokenisation of recycling incentives

Sector: Sustainability

Aplicación: Tokenisation

Empresa: Ecoembes

Ecoembes was launched three years ago at TheCircularLab, aiming to use mobile technology and rewards to develop a recycling model for beverage cans and plastic bottles that would complement the existing one, which has been firmly established in Spain for more than 20 years through the yellow bin.  

Recycling figures in Spain are extremely encouraging, but this project wants to continue innovating to find new solutions that fit people’s day-to-day lives, helping local councils to build responsible and sustainable towns and cities. The project is based on the open innovation strategy set up at TheCircularLab, where a challenge was launched to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. This led to the incubation of five start-ups, which then carried out five pilot projects. After analysing their results and level of maturity, RECICLOS was selected for the development of new demonstration and pilot projects. RECICLOS leverages blockchain tokenisation capabilities to reward people’s efforts through tokens and trace their environmental impact. 

Since its pilot launch in Catalonia, RECICLOS has been implemented in more than 20 towns and cities throughout the region, as well as in others in the Community of Madrid, Andalusia, Aragón, Murcia, La Rioja, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Navarre, Asturias and now Galicia. Incentive-based recycling machines have also been installed in railway stations in the Barcelona metropolitan area, municipal markets in the city of Valencia, leisure parks in Madrid and shopping centres in Seville and Madrid. 

Throughout 2021, this system is expected to reach all regions of Spain, with yellow bins incorporating this technology and machines set up in other transport stations and shopping and leisure centres. 

For the public, RECICLOS provides: 

  • An ecosystem for incentive initiatives that can foster responsible behaviour and awareness of environmental sustainability. 
  • A boost to sustainable services, resulting in a cleaner environment for the whole of society. 
  • Mechanisms to track all transactions and information, helping people to have a greater sense of ownership of their actions. 
  • Digital asset management by means of user wallets. The use of RECICLOS is similar to the use of cryptocurrency wallets or cryptoassets, but with one key difference:  people can receive credit for the efforts they make to improve recycling and track their impact on sustainability. 

Why blockchain?   

Blockchain aligns with the circular economy, and therefore with recycling, because both are driven by collective action. Compared to other technologies, it is able to bring together a whole host of individuals, institutions and companies and align them to improve recycling. This is something that can only be achieved with a truly open, decentralised and neutral solution.  

To this end, RECICLOS leverages blockchain tokenisation capabilities to digitally create “RECICLOS” (recycling incentives) as non-fungible tokens that function as purpose-driven reward tokens. Each RECICLOS is therefore unique and can be programmed using smart contracts or blockchain programming code to include, for example, complete traceability information of its entire life cycle, which is immutably logged in CircularChain, a network promoted by Ecoembes for the circular economy ecosystem in Spain. This network has been implemented in compliance with Ethereum’s ERC-721 standard for non-fungible tokens, although CircularChain was based on Hyperledger Fabric. It is also supported by Alastria’s T Network (Quorum-based blockchain network) for logging evidence that ensures the integrity and non-manipulation of the network and is backed by Alastria’s member nodes, thus strengthening trust in the system.  

The use of blockchain offers a number of benefits: 

  • Increased trust: immutable and auditable ledger of all activity. Complete traceability information is provided throughout a RECICLOS’ lifetime, making it secure and transparent for both individuals and participating organisations, as well as for all incentive mechanisms, particularly raffles and donations, which can also be traced for greater transparency.
  • Easier onboarding of new ecosystem stakeholders, so that they can operate with RECICLOS and thus extend the usefulness of tokens to other areas, such as local commerce, municipal services and tourism. The distributed network approach and trusted ecosystem lowers the barriers and frictions for collaboration between organisations in a way that facilitates the generation, transfer and exchange of RECICLOS. In addition, the convergence of all these participants can open up new business opportunities around new relationships or existing data.

How it works  

  1. Users open the RECICLOS web app on their mobile phone ( and create an account. They can then scan the barcode on the cans and bottles of drinks they have consumed. By doing so, these items are added to their virtual bin. When they go to the yellow bin in their town or city to dispose of the cans and bottles, they scan the QR code on the bin. At that moment, the items in their virtual bin are converted into tokens, known as RECICLOS.  
  2. RECICLOS can also be earned by dropping cans and bottles directly into the recycling machines. In this case, users scan the QR code on the machine’s screen after inserting each item, and the RECICLOS tokens are added directly to their account. This encourages recycling outside the home (travel, casual consumption, outdoor celebrations, etc.). 
  3. Users can exchange their RECICLOS for a variety of rewards. The aim is for these rewards to be related to the sustainability of their immediate environment: donations to environmental and social projects, participation in raffles for sustainable prizes and services, etc. It is important to point out that the number of RECICLOS that users can earn is limited, so as to encourage responsible consumption.