Rates rise when recycling’s rewarded

Pilot schemes offering cash rewards and other prizes to top recyclers have shown that given a big enough carrot, people are prepared to pay more attention to the management of their own household waste.

Defra offered a total of £3.5 million to over 50 local authorities to run schemes offering incentives to recycle more as well as reducing waste and reusing products where possible, to find out what might work and what would not.

Individual prizes such as cash, cars and holidays were offered in some schemes, whilst in others, communities were rewarded with funding for local initiatives and improvements.

In some areas, it seems the incentive was just not good enough as although the tonnage of recyclables collected increased in over half of the areas and in many places contamination rates were also reduced, there were a number of boroughs and districts where residents did not get the message.

Other incentive pilots targeted waste reduction by encouraging reuse. Some of the trials led to enthusiastic recycling community champions and a range of voluntary community groups.

“We’ve trebled recycling since 1997 – but we’re going to have to do much better still if we are to tackle climate change and avoid huge fines for breaking European landfill limits,” said Ben Bradshaw, Minister with responsibility for waste.

“We are all going to have to change our behaviour radically and these incentive schemes show it’s possible.”

His responsibility-starts-at-home message echoed the Prime Minister’s comments earlier in the week, when Blair told a BBC news programme that people should carry out a carbon audit of their own households and do their bit to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

“The interesting thing is we could do something about it [climate change],” he told the BBC.

“The question is whether we have the will.”

The results of all the pilots have been published on the Defra website.

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie