Denver Citizens Suspicious of Recycling Jackpot, Gimmick

Denver is using cold, hard cash as an incentive to recycle. A lottery fund drawn from donations from the American Plastics Council, Arlington, Va., the Denver Post, and the Rocky Mountain News, is providing a $100 weekly reward to randomly selected participants following the Denver Recycles program rules.

The one-year pilot, intended to boost participation in the free citywide recycling program, will end Nov. 2003. At press time, 14 winners had claimed prizes.

Giving money away has not been as easy as planners and organizers originally thought. The first winners received what Recycling Analyst Charlotte Pitt calls the “Publisher's Clearinghouse treatment.” But more high-profile news garnered the press' complete attention. “Getting the word out is a big part of the program,” Pitt says. “Most people are really excited about winning, but winners who didn't know we were doing this were wondering, ‘what's the scam? What do I have to buy?’”

At first, the city issued checks to winners, although the money did not come from the city. The checks had to clear several channels, took up to four weeks to deliver and required winners to submit social security numbers. Now, Pitt says, instead of checks and a presentation, winners get a phone call telling them Denver Recycles is coming over with a fistful of cash.