A study by the London Assembly says while schemes that reward or penalise Londoners for recycling their waste are initially effective, it is unclear whether they lead to fundamental changes in behaviour.

The report Carrots and sticks – a review of reward and compulsory recycling incentive schemes pointed out that recycling rates have improved dramatically where boroughs have introduced penalty and reward schemes.

However it warned there are benefits and drawbacks associated with both types of schemes, suggesting a single solution will not work across the capital.

For example, London’s high proportion of flats, its transient population and the number of households without internet access, could affect the success of incentive schemes.

In addition, the more adversarial approach of compulsory schemes can discourage ongoing communication with residents.

The report also suggested that weight-based reward schemes could have unintended consequences, for example individuals deliberately generating more waste to maximise their rewards.

London Assembly’s environment committee heard from those running reward schemes that participants may need to be re-incentivised once recycling rates have reached a plateau. Furthermore, no-one has been fined under the compulsory model to date.

Deputy chair of the environment committee, Darren Johnson, said: “The capital does face unique challenges and it is clear that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Whatever method boroughs use to reduce waste must result in long-term changes.”

The report comes out a day after Lambeth Council became the first borough in London to introduce a recycling rewards scheme – the launch was attended by edie.

The initiative is the latest development in Lambeth’s bid to improve on its 22% recycling rate. Last month the council introduced fines of up to £1,000 for residents who persistently refuse to recycle.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has set a challenging target for Londoners to recycle at least 45% of household waste by 2015, rising to 60% by 2031.

Maxine Perella

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