Lonely Planet Writer

Commuters in Istanbul can recycle waste in exchange for transport credit

A subway station in Istanbul, Turkey has installed reverse vending machines that recycle used aluminium cans and plastic bottles in exchange for train fare.

A metro station in Istanbul has introduced reverse vending machines. Image by Getty

If you find yourself in Istanbul and you’re short on change for your train fare, the bottles of water or cans of beer that are hiding in your recycling bin might come in handy. İTÜ-Ayazağa metro station in Maslak, the city’s second-largest financial district, now accepts recyclable cans and bottles as train fare. The city’s municipal government and an Istanbul-based IT company called Isbak introduced reverse vending machines to the station in mid-October to encourage customers to recycle more by making it super convenient.

Customers can top up their city transportation pass (Istanbul Card) by feeding the reverse vending machines with recyclable plastic bottles and aluminium cans. The machines will crush, shred and sort out the recyclable waste. According to the New York Times, the city wants to introduce 100 more at 25 locations, including schools and universities before the year is out.

The reverse vending machine in İTÜ-Ayazağa. Image by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality

You need to recycle a lot of waste before you have the sufficient amount of credit for a free journey. A 0.33-litre plastic bottle will get you two kurus credit (kurus is the Turkish equivalent of cents, 100 kurus make up one lira), while a 0.5-litre bottle would add about three kurus in credit, (slightly more than half a US cent); a one-litre bottle will get you six kurus (1.1 US cents) and a 1.5-litre bottle will add nine kurus (1.6 US cents) to your card. With the average subway journey costing approximately 2.60 Turkish lira (US 40 cents), a commuter would need to crush at least 28 1.5-litre bottles to have enough credit for a free ride. Aluminium cans will get you further as an average 0.5-litre can will top up your card with nine kurus credit.

The Istanbul Card can be used all across the city. Image by piskunov/Getty Images

The purpose of the project is to encourage long-term recycling habits from commuters. Think of it as a loyalty card, the more cans and bottles you recycle, the more credit you get and eventually you’ll recycle enough to be rewarded with a free journey. Topping up your Istanbul Card with credit means you can use it for more than just subway journeys. You can put your recycling credit towards entry to any place where Istanbul Cards are accepted, including buses, trams and even towards access to public toilets in the city.