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Are Financial Incentives all We Understand?

Are Financial Incentives all We Understand?

Hit in the heart, hit in the arm, but hit in the wallet? That’s when we pay attention.

You pay something, pennies I think, per bottle or can that you buy at the supermarket. In a way, it’s something of a deposit. You’ll get that money back if you bring it back to the recycling center. But how much is it again? Is it 5 cents? Hmm. What it it were one dollar?

Out at an event last night at the Magere Brug here in Amsterdam where they had short animated films projected on the floor of the open bridge (Bridge Between Cities- Multi-Bridge Animation Night). Was very cool. But I was more interested in the story behind the plastic cups …

My little plastic cup had a note on it, “Bring me home.”

That’s sweet. But if you turned the cup around, you also saw that there was “1 Euro” printed on the side. I didn’t buy the drink, but I learned that my friend paid 1 Euro per cup (more than a US dollar) as a deposit so that she would bring it back. It’s not as much as they want the plastic cups back as much as they don’t want them on the ground.

The locals we were talking to thought the idea was brilliant. They talked about big parties and how the street becomes a literal river of plastic cups and trash. At this event last night, there were hundreds of people and most were drinking something from the bar on the corner. I like to give the benefit of the doubt and assume people will respect the neighborhood and throw the garbage in the trash, but I also like believing in the tooth fairy.

Hit them in the wallet and there are no more questions of morals, respect, or lifestyle. Everyone understands–and respects–money.

At the bigger festivals, if cups did get to the ground, they didn’t stay there long. Collectors and kids were fast to snap them up and return them for a tidy profit. It’s a simple system, hitting us where it hurts, but where we’ll pay attention.

So guess how many plastic cups were on the ground after the party?

Mini film festival on the Magere Brug, Amsterdam

Mini film festival on the Magere Brug, Amsterdam

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