Recycling scandal arises in Cherry Hill

A truck collects recyclables in Vienna. Image courtesy of
A truck collects recyclables in Vienna. Image courtesy of

A scandal involving the redemption of RecycleBank points through good recycling habits has arisen within the wealthy Cherry Hill neighborhood of Vienna, in which numerous residents have been accused of buying and immediately discarding heavy metal and plastic goods in an attempt to get free rewards.

RecycleBank is a company contracted by Cherry Hill Township to collect the town’s paper, metal and plastic waste, while at the same time recording the amount of material recycled by each household. Residents can log into the company’s website to check their balance and redeem their “points” in exchange for coupons for local businesses.

According to resident Sophie Scott, 51, the practice began some time around early May. “We all got together as a community and decided that something needed to be done about the way the recession was affecting our neighborhood.” The main reason, Scott said, was to continue to be able to hire expensive landscapers. “Vienna is known as a community of affluent, trendy homeowners. If we started looking shabby, people wouldn’t know what to think about themselves.”

The scandal eventually came to light when a wandering homeless man and ex-CPA, Jeoffrey Samuels, 43, sought refuge in Vienna in an attempt to escape from Cherry Hill police. After eluding law enforcement, Samuels opened a blue RecycleBank container in search of food, finding several unopened cans of beef stock, French-cut green beans, Spam and crushed tomatoes. Samuels investigated with ex-business partner Jane Gelding, 38, finding nearly forty bins on one street alone that contained at least seven unopened cans or bottles of food.

After droves of homeless people descended on Vienna, the neighborhood’s secret became public. As local news agencies discovered the source of the influx of new residents, other Cherry Hill communities began to express outrage at Vienna’s practices.

“It’s not fair,” said Michelle Delacroix (’11), a resident of Old Arbor. “The rest of us can’t afford to buy groceries and throw them away to get coupons. Vienna is acting irresponsibly.”

Peter Gagarin (’13) offered a similar opinion. “What they’re doing [in Vienna] is wrong. I think that people should just drive over there and steal their recyclables to get points. They can always buy new stuff…to throw away.”

Recyclebank was unable to be reached for comment.