Reward schemes don’t boost recycling

Reward schemes designed to help increase the recycling of household waste have not increased tonnages. This comes after a review of Defra’s Reward and Recognition Fund, designed to explore new approaches to encourage people to recycle more and recognise their positive behaviour.

The schemes assessed attempted to engage and encourage greater recycling and reuse by using individual prize draws, giving individual rewards or community rewards and competitions. But overall the evidence showed that there was not a sea change in increased recycling tonnage, participation or claimed behaviour.While some incremental rises were noted in kerbside recycling schemes those focusing on community led ones produced sporadic results.

This is not surprising news, as in many areas the basics have yet to be met. Research continues to show that people are still unsure what to put into the recycling bin and what to leave out. And those that do remain sceptical about  whether this material will be recycled. ‘It all just ends up in landfill anyway’ is a common statement I often get told at parties.

I often wonder if these reward schemes encourage greater consumption by providing vouchers to buy more stuff. This is hardly in keeping with trying to prevent waste in the first place.


In the last six years local authority communications budget have been slashed to the bone leaving little room to engage with householders on recycling issues. Even with the greatest of creativity there’s only so much one can do to keep recycling in peoples’ minds.

Tackling these issues is crucial if we wish to see recycling rates increase and reach the required 50% recycling rate by 2020. Standardisation of collection schemes will reduce the confusion on what can be recycled  – moving away from the current situation where a neighbouring authority is likely to have a completely different set up. Greater transparency detailing the end destination of material is also essential, helping people to understand what actually happens to the contents of the recycling box once it leaves their doorstep.

Communication needs to remain continual, clear and consistent

Money needs to be poured back into communications budgets to enable the use of appropriate communication channels to meet an area’s targeted community. Today we have a wider choice than ever before and used wisely can produce effective results. Above all  communication needs to remain continual, clear and consistent.

While not wishing to undermine the progress we’ve made in the UK on increasing our recycling rate since the beginning of the century we still have far to go. With rates plateauing off in recent years we need to work hard to ensure we continue moving forward.




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Filed under Communication, Engagement

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