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Incentive schemes and local authorities dismiss London Assembly findings

Operators of compulsory recycling and incentive schemes have defended their strategies, after a London Assembly report questioned the long term gains of the schemes and their applicability to London.

The Assembly’s environment committee report called for a “more comprehensive evidence base” to identify the longer term impacts on recycling rates, in contrast to sustained communications campaigns and found that online waste reporting for incentive schemes could be “problematic” given that 26% of residents do not have internet access.

Recyclebank UK managing director Sue Igoe said: “We welcome the report, acknowledging that there are a number of methods for local authorities to change residents’ recycling behaviours.

“The evidence we have gathered from these schemes, in the UK and the States, underscores our and their belief that an incentive-based model can be successful over the long term in a number of diverse and challenging local authority settings. The increases in recycling by up to 60%, in the UK, prove that rewards motivate residents to increase their recycling.

“The London Assembly report acknowledges that 26% of Londoners don’t have access to the internet. Universality and accessibility is key to the success of the Recyclebank programme. Residents can participate in the Recyclebank scheme either online, by phone, or through a free iPhone app.”

Islington Council, which recently opened a compulsory recycling service defended its approach to waste reduction and emphasised the importance of effective communication for its scheme.

A spokesman told MRW: “There is evidence to suggest that behavioural change can be achieved through a combination of encouragement with the provision of convenient, reliable services, backed up with a legal requirement as appropriate. Islington’s view is that the introduction of compulsory recycling is an appropriate step given the extensive range of conveniently placed recycling services provided to residents in Islington and the need to save funds through reductions in waste being sent for disposal.

“Communication remains important and forms a core part of our strategy for improving recycling performance. Without effective communication, neither incentives or compulsion will work.”

Brent council, which also introduced a compulsory service, believed there was evidence that such schemes could be effective in the longer term.

Brent council lead member for environment, Cllr James Powney told MRW: “Brent introduced compulsory recycling in 2008 with rates around 25%. It is now pushing 35% of household waste recycled. We will be moving to fully commingled in October and aspire to a 60% rate within the next few years.”

He added that a “consistent message” was key to overcoming the challenges of driving up recycling rates in London’s multicultural and often transient populations.

Powney said: “In my role as a board member for the West London Waste Authority I support and encourage a consistent and recognisable message across all the west London boroughs. This helps to lessen the impact of a transient population. Brent is the UK’s most diverse borough, and London a cosmopolitan city, so our communication has to be accessible to multiple groups.”

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