There are about 7 million vending machines in America. And what do the vast majority of them sell? Sodas and sodium- or sugar-heavy snacks (which aren’t good for you), packaged in plastic or PET and shipped around the country (which isn’t good for the planet). We’ve all used vending machines. But despite their convenience, they certainly aren’t a solution to humanity’s problems.
Or are they? The Swap-o-Matic, created by the New York City-based designer Lina Fenequito, is a vending machine that lets you "recycle things you no longer need and get things you want—all for free." You create a Swap-o-Matic account by entering an email address on the machine’s touch screen. You’re then issued three credits. You can earn more credits by donating items to the machine and spend them by getting items in the machine that someone else has donated.
Fenequito, who worked for Americorps before earning an MFA at Parsons School of Design, says the project is about promoting "a shift in culture away from an emphasis on unconscious consumption towards a more sustainable way of life through reusing and trading."
The Swap-o-Matic is currently migrating around New York City. You can look up its location on the project’s website and, if you’re in New York, drop by to donate or peruse what’s available. Soon you’ll be able to see what’s in the machine online as well.
With the recent rise of information technology—and decline in disposable income—several online-based swapping tools have already emerged, including Swap.com, Freecycle, and Netcycler. The Swap-o-Matic is admittedly more of an art project, but it’s in the same spirit. And while it may not "save the earth" (we’ll need cap-and-trade for that), it may get people thinking about their consumption habits in a helpful way.