Over 50 pilot schemes were run between October 2005 and March 2006, using around £3.5 million of funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and covering over 5.2 million households.
The aim of the scheme was to test the value of a variety of incentives on a range of different target populations. Incentives offered included cash, cars, holidays and community rewards and improvements.
In over half of the schemes the tonnage of recyclables collected increased, while in others contamination rates reduced. However the actual increases achieved varied considerably, and many councils had problems with ensuring that the results were directly attributable to the incentives.
Acknowledging the UKs need to further improve its recycling rates, Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw said: We are all going to have to change our behaviour radically and these incentive schemes show its possible.
The Governments report on incentives concluded that incentives can be a useful tool to authorities that wish to enhance the performance of their waste collection service. But it warned that there was no one size fits all solution and that authorities would need to take a number of considerations into account, particularly the barriers to recycling that it would need to address.
It added that the best solution may then actually be to introduce a service or infrastructure change, for example, collect more material types rather than offering an incentive alone.
Particularly successful was Rochdale and Salfords Tree for Dreams campaign that encouraged households to take their real Christmas trees to local recycling points to help local disadvantaged children. A 60% increase in the number of trees collected was achieved in Rochdale compared to the previous year when no incentive was offered.