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Community incentives fail to inspire recycling in East London

Hackney’s attempt to encourage residents to recycle by offering incentives has failed.

The six-month trial ran across 10 of the borough’s estates from October to March, using funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) household waste incentive pilot scheme.

Hackney’s trial covered a variety of estate types that were not served by door-to-door collection services. On offer was a prize of £1,500 each month for the estate with the highest tonnage of recyclables per household, and £1,500 at the end of the trial for the best estate overall.

It promoted the scheme through leaflets and posters, aimed to visit each household involved to explain the scheme to residents, and ensured the inclusion of tenants and residents associations to help with the trial’s promotion.

But despite promising improvements at the start, the incentives failed to encourage residents to recycle significantly more.

Hackney recycling manager Beth Hodge said the failure of the scheme could have been because the incentives were not local enough — not rewarding residents for their efforts on an individual basis, but a community basis.

Hodge said: “The prize money had to be spent on environmental improvements — so the estates ended up spending money on things that people maybe thought the council should be doing anyway.”

She also said the prize money may not have been attractive enough, and questioned whether the trial had simply captured residents who already recycled.

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