Councils improve recycling rates by adopting reward schemes, new study finds

Local authorities that introduce recycling incentives for households tend to have higher recycling rates than those that offer compulsory recycling systems, according to new research.

The carrot approach is twice as effective as the stick in improving dry recycling rates, according to Greenredeem study

The carrot approach is twice as effective as the stick in improving dry recycling rates, according to Greenredeem study

The research produced by reward recycling company Greenredeem found that the 'carrot' approach was twice effective as the 'stick' approach in improving dry recycling rates. Dry recyclables include glass, plastic and cardboard materials.

The study, which covers the period from 2009/10 to 2013/14, reveals how local authorities in England that introduced recycling reward schemes saw dry recycling rates reach nearly 27%, while those with compulsory recycling strategies recorded a rate of only 15%.

In 2012/2013, local authorities that adopted a rewards scheme to improve dry recycling rates saw 19.18% recycled, compared with just 11.91%, for those that implemented compulsory recycling, according to the research.

Greenredeem has schemes running at Ealing Council in west London, the London Borough of Lambeth, Halton Borough Council, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and Wokingham Borough Council.

The company's initiative allows residents to earn points for recycling and then redeem them through commercial partners. The company has a total of 450 businesses at local level partnered with its scheme.

Speaking to, Greenredeem communications director Rob Crumbie said local authorities have to make choices over whether they opt for reward recycling schemes or a compulsory recycling strategy to help "kick start stagnating rates".

He explained that reward schemes have helped to increase recycling rates and generated business for local shops. He said that it has also encouraged residents to donate their points to local community initiatives.

Crumbie added that a multi-national organisation would soon be partnering up with Greenredeem. Although, he could not disclose who the sponsor was, he said that the firm is a "massive" multi-national company.

In October, the Department for Communities and Local Government announced a £5m 'Recycling Rewards Scheme Fund', supporting the research found by Greenredeem.

As part of the announcement, Communities Eric Pickles praised the Greenredeem scheme in Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and highlighted it as a success story. The borough has managed to introduce its overall recycling rates by more than one-third since it introduced the reward scheme in 2010.

Crumbie said: "It's clear that the Government can see the benefit of incentive schemes. However, this research offers the evidence for local authorities that has so far been lacking: The carrot is more twice as effective as the stick at improving dry recycling rates.

"We would encourage all local authorities, whether they plan an incentive-based scheme or not, to take up Eric Pickles' offer of the 'Recycling Rewards Scheme Fund'. This research demonstrates that rewards programmes have real impact on local dry recycling rates, as well as wider benefits for residents, local business and community causes.

"We would strongly encourage local authorities to adopt such schemes if they are serious at hitting the government target of a 50% recycling rate by 2020."

Liz Gyekye
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