It's good to talk: how to hike up recycling rates

Public consultation is vital if local authorities are to target their recycling campaigns effectively and achieve high success rates, says a new study

Local authorities who communicate effectively with householders are more likely to achieve higher recycling rates, according to a recent study by Corus.
The study - which surveyed 143 LAs - found that the most effective recycling campaigns carry out communication and promotional activities prior to, during, and after the introduction of a kerbside scheme.

The study also found that in order for LAs to target those materials that householders are most likely to recycle, it is vital to ask residents for their views beforehand. The research discovered that a major factor in the success of a recycling scheme is the involvement and training of collection crews in the planning stages - crews are 'ambassadors' for the scheme and provide a direct link with the householder.

Scope of study
The study initially surveyed 143 LAs to gather information on perceptions on the appropriateness of recycling different categories of steel cans, before undertaking a more in-depth survey of 62 LAs to gather information on communications activities, funding, legislation and incentives.

Corus was keen to find out whether funding - or the lack of it - is the primary factor influencing the level of LA promotional activities. Sixty-nine per cent of respondents agreed that it was the primary factor. In addition, 62% of respondents said they would prefer government funding to be shared between LAs on some equitable basis, rather than authorities having to bid for funding.

Legislation aside, the majority of respondents felt that the landfill allowance trading scheme (LATS) was the main driver for recycling, followed by best value performance indicators (BVPIs), demand by residents, the cost of landfill and recycling targets. Half of respondents said that LAs should be able to make their own decisions as to the introduction of variable charging.

Do incentives work?
With many LAs looking at incentives to encourage residents to recycle more, respondents were asked for their experience of three different methods of potentially increasing participation - payments for recycling, loyalty rewards and threat of penalties.
Thirty-five per cent had tried to encourage recycling through the payment of recycling credits and 27% found this to be effective. Forty-seven per cent had tried loyalty rewards such as prize draws, and 21% found this to be effective. Fifteen per cent had tried introducing the threat of penalties, and all who had introduced this measure found it to be effective.

Respondents were also asked about which promotional activities they carry out prior to, or on the introduction of, a new kerbside recycling initiative. The three most common promotional activities in order of preference were: leaflet to residents; press articles; and council newsletter.

While radio advertising and websites were rated the most effective methods of promotion, door stepping was considered to be least appropriate communications method for introducing a new kerbside recycling initiative.

l The study 'Targeting additional ferrous metals through local authority recycling programmes' was conducted by analyst Jennie Rogers on behalf of Corus Steel Packaging Recycling. For further information go to: www.cspr.co.uk

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