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Novel paper recycling program a hit in Puerto Rico

Blake Patterson, executive vice president for REMAG. (Credit: © Mauricio Pascual)

Blake Patterson, executive vice president for REMAG. (Credit: © Mauricio Pascual)

Puerto Rico residents have not always been too inclined to recycle, perhaps due to a lack of education on the importance of doing so to help the environment, or simply for a lack of facilities where to take their paper, glass and plastic goods.

However, during the last quarter of 2013, a pilot program run by retailer SuperMax and recycling company REMAG resulted in a significant volume of recycled paper by island residents who — for every newspaper and magazine they dropped in the six bright green kiosks — were rewarded with manufacturers discount coupons for the things they buy the most.

The pilot program, which ran between August and November 2013 at SuperMax’s Isla Verde, De Diego and Guaynabo stores collected more than 90,000 pounds of paper and issued more than 290,000 manufacturers discount coupons to participating consumers for 150 products, said Blake Patterson, executive vice president for REMAG.

For the pilot, REMAG partnered with B Fernández & Hnos., Clorox, Colgate/Palmolive, General Mills, Healthy Choice, Kellogg’s, Kraft, Nestle, MARS, Mondelez, Pepsi, Procter and Gamble, and Unilever and others to offer discounts on items ranging from bread to spaghetti sauce.

The kiosks helped introduce and test the REMAG recycling concept in the marketplace, were removed from the three stores in December, and are now under redesign to work out all of the kinks discovered through the test phase.

“REMAG is investing in improving the kiosks with a new customer interface, innovative scanning technology, and a focus on operations and efficiency. In addition, the coupon program will expand to services industries and other retail outlets as a new market channel,” he said.

“It is important for us to apply what we learned to make REMAG better for our partners and our users. REMAG provides real value to customers, real opportunities for manufacturers and service providers, and makes a very real impact on the environment,” Patterson said.

“We are very excited about the work to be done to evolve all components of the program and as anxious as our users to get REMAG back in the marketplace,” he added.

While initially SuperMax executives hinted at the possibility of extending the program beyond the Nov. 30, 2013 end date and installing kiosks in its other stores, REMAG is focusing on expanding the concept to “new markets, retailers, and service providers,” Patterson said.

“Improving customer and partner experience is also a priority to ensure the continued engagement by customers and the benefits are maximized for all stakeholders,” he added. “The reaction by the citizens of Puerto Rico was overwhelmingly positive with many people now calling for its return through social media channels.”

Aside from encouraging recycling and rewarding consumers with discount coupons, the REMAG pilot program also benefitted seven nonprofits who split close to $19,000. REMAG donated 5¢ for each coupon printed during the three-month period.

Puerto Rico nonprofit organizations participating in the REMAG program included The Humane Society of Puerto Rico, SER de Puerto Rico, San Juan Bay Estuary, Hogares Teresa Toda, Sacred Heart University, Sierra Club and the G8 (eight communities neighboring the Martín Peña Channel).

REMAG also received the support in the environmental and recycling area from organizations such as: Environmental Protection Agency, the Solid Waste Authority, Green America and Puerto Rico Recycling Partnership.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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