Yoyo rewards good waste sorters to encourage plastic recycling

Yoyo wants to double the plastic recycling rate in French cities. Via a collaborative platform, this start-up rewards individuals and companies who sort and collect their plastic bottles. And it’s working!

Rewarding waste sorting

Yoyo’s offering is based on a waste-sorting reward. The coach obtains 25 points per bag recovered and the sorter 125 points. The points can be exchanged via an online store on the Yoyo platform for rewards offered by cities and partner companies: tickets to the cinema, concerts or football matches, admission to museums or the swimming pool, carsharing subscriptions, public transport season tickets, etc.

I consume, I collect… This yoyo motion gave Éric Brac de La Perrière the idea of launching a start-up in February 2017. Its goal: raising citizens’ awareness of the importance of recycling for the environment. A real challenge even though the French government has set a target of 100% plastic packaging recycled by 2025. While the average plastic bottle collection rate is currently 60% in France, it drops steeply to 10% in city centers* (read his interview). This is a worrying observation for the former general manager of Éco-Emballages…

Urban plastic

“Urban collection is stagnating: we have reached a plateau of less than 30% for plastic (and 10% in city centers), even though the current system is becoming increasingly expensive,” he states. “Yoyo has set itself the goal of raising the plastic recycling rate in cities to 70%.” Veolia is a minority shareholder (20%) in Yoyo: “We decided to support Yoyo because we want to raise citizens’ and companies’ awareness about sorting waste,” adds Sylvie Recrosio, Veolia’s Regional Director in Aquitaine. “We want to encourage people to sort their waste more and go a step further in a positive, innovative way.”

On a human scale

How does Yoyo work? With just a few clicks, the Internet user signs up as a sorter on the Yoyo platform. They choose a contact person — the coach — who lives near them (neighbor, building supervisor, sporting or local association, shopkeeper, etc.). This person makes contact with the new sorter and organizes a meeting, during which they instruct the sorter and provide them with numbered recycling bags (one bag contains about 40 bottles). The sorter fills their Yoyo bags at their own pace and drops them off to their coach once they are full. The coach registers the bags and the sorter’s account is credited with points.

For its part, the start-up guarantees the complete traceability of the plastic salvaged: once collected by Veolia or La Poste (which also partners Yoyo), the bags are taken directly to a recycling site.

“Their contents are stored there and then baled for recycling as part of a short-loop circular economy approach,” explains Sylvie Recrosio.

Thanks to a number marked on the bags, the sorter can thus follow “their” bottles’ journey until they are recycled.

Improving the current situation

“With Yoyo, we are making the bold move of rewarding inhabitants who don’t recycle,” states Éric Brac de La Perrière, who sees Yoyo as complementary to other waste sorting steps. “Yoyo doesn’t do everything — there’s the yellow bin — but it’s accelerating changes in behavior.”

In 2017, the scheme was tested in Lyon’s 9th arrondissement and then within Bordeaux itself. Sylvie Recrosio reports promising initial results for this area: “Yoyo has been in Bordeaux for barely two years and in 2017 alone already 15 metric tons of PET plastic was collected, i.e. 7.2 kg per sorter! That’s 50% more than the natural supply… Today, around 5,000 citizens sort plastic in the city, there are one hundred or so coaches, and 2,500 rewards have been given. It’s also worth pointing out that the quality of the sorting is excellent.”

Mama Shelter in Bordeaux adopts recycling

In Bordeaux, the hotel Mama Shelter was won over by Yoyo from the very beginning and has become a high-performance sorter. The establishment pays 200 euros per month to the scheme for La Poste to pick up its bags of used plastic bottles and take them to the recycling center. This is a winning move for the hotel, which thus reduces its waste collection budget and improves its environmental footprint (fewer bins and fewer garbage truck collections).

Business model

Yoyo’s profitability is based on selling the material and partnerships with local authorities and companies. For individuals, the service — which complements the yellow recycling bins — is free. Local authorities remunerate the start-up via contracts lasting at least one year. According to Yoyo, this service provision cost pays for itself in two years: partly via the increase in the income gained by selling the material to recyclers and partly thanks to the subsidies that the eco-organization Citeo grants the local authorities. Another positive financial repercussion: as the waste collected is sorted, it is no longer incinerated or buried, automatically reducing the amount of general tax on polluting activities (TGAP) paid to the State by local authorities. For Veolia, it represents an additional source of high-quality plastic waste for the Group, which will be treated locally.

Strengthening social ties

While Yoyo makes it possible to double the waste collection performance in urban areas, this scheme is also a way of strengthening social ties. The start-up relies on communities of residents stretching across the urban space: sorters and coaches interact, motivate each other… and pass on eco-friendly habits beyond recycling bottles. This is also where Yoyo’s strength and originality lie: a feeling of inclusion and “positive ecology communities” with educational benefits.

Waste sorting is gaining ground

Yoyo has only just begun… After Lyon and Bordeaux, the aim is to expand to a dozen cities by the end of 2018 and 50 by the end of 2020. Mulhouse, Marseille, Lille and Le Havre have taken the plunge and will be joined by Paris’ western and northern suburbs (Asnières, Clichy, Saint-Ouen). “We also want to collect plastics other than PET, such as waste electrical and electronic equipment — WEEE,” concludes Éric Brac de La Perrière.

“We also want to collect plastics other than PET, such as waste electrical and electronic equipment — WEEE,” concludes Éric Brac de La Perrière.


4 key figures for Yoyo

Some 10,000 people have joined the community
12 members of staff
40 metric tons of PET collected in one year (2017-2018)
50 member towns and cities in 2020


*2018 figures from the French Ministry for Ecological and Inclusive Transition
**Polyethylene Terephthalate