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Investigation reveals high cost to implement RecycleBank scheme

The cost of implementing the RecycleBank incentive scheme pilot in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) was £51.15 per household, an exclusive investigation by MRW can reveal.

Information obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the borough shows the cost of implementing the pilot across 3800 households was £194,400, coming exclusively from local authority revenue finance.

The cost of then rolling-out the incentive scheme, which gives households money off vouchers to spend in local shops and leisure facilities in exchange for recycling, to the rest of the borough has also been revealed as a further £96,000 of revenue funds. The cost of rolling-out the scheme is significantly less than the cost of implementing the pilot as initial set-up charges had already been paid.

This does not include the additional capital cost of approximately £900,000 required to purchase new wheelie bins, complete with chips, which RBWM say were necessary anyway to replace the previous twin-box recycling system which had come to the end of its life. It also doesn’t include another £350,000 for the retrofitting of bin lifts and weigh cells on vehicles.

When all these costs are added together it brings the total amount paid to implement the scheme borough-wide, including the trial, to just over £1.54m (made up of both revenue and capital finance sources).

However, RBWM insist that all of the costs to set-up and implement the scheme will be re-couped within two years once it is fully operational. It also points out that the significant cost of new bins is not part of the initial set-up costs for the scheme as these were required anyway.

When asked about the figures, RBWM head of public protection Terry Gould told MRW: “The project will be cost neutral over the next two years and that is to do with the difference in landfill reduction less processing of recycling.”

Gould speaks extremely highly of the scheme which he says has been an “overwhelming” success in the borough.

He said: “It has been overwhelming and burst all our expectations and all our targets for everything from tonnage captured through to customer satisfaction, participation rates and even numbers of reward partners. We are still trying out incentivisation as a concept but people do like it.

“There is also a much, much wider aspect to all of this than just recycling. Incentivisation opens up the door to lots of things and encourages good behaviour all-round.”

Since the introduction of the RecycleBank trial in June 2009, RBWM has only seen its recycling rate increase from 35% in 2009 to 36% this year although the full scheme is still in the process of being rolled-out borough-wide.

Gould explained this relatively low recycling rate can be attributed to the lack of organic waste collection in existence in RBWM, aside from a small subscription-only service for green waste. He also hinted that organics would eventually come under the RecycleBank scheme.

He said: “We are not the highest recycling authority in the land - that is blatantly obvious. We are part way through a contract and we are just about to announce our results for the procurement of our new waste disposal contract and we do know, because we carry out regular waste composition analyses that our big problem is organics, green waste and stuff like that. We know that’s our achilles’ heel and that we need to do something about it and surprise surprise, guess what we will be doing under the new contract?”

 

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead response:

Dear MRW

I read your article about the Royal Borough’s recycling rewards (13 August) and while I understand your efforts to explain the finance behind the scheme, it would be fair to point out that there are some inaccuracies. I would like to use this letter to set the record straight.

Two main points need explanation and/or putting into context:

  • The £194,000 quoted for the implementation of the pilot scheme to 3,800 households (£51.50 per household) includes the capital cost of providing 4,000 new bins and associated set up costs. Capital costs are amortised over approx 10 years and we estimate the cost of the pilot scheme was only about £17.00 per household. The capital costs for the pilot scheme were actually funded from the Waste Performance Grant and therefore at no cost to local council taxpayers.
  • The £96,000 quoted for rolling out the scheme to the remainder of the borough does not, for the same reasons, include the capital costs of the bins because we planned to buy new bins anyway to replace the old recycling boxes.

Recycling rewards are a major part of our commitment to sustainability. In a borough where delivering low council tax is a priority for our residents the indications are that the scheme will save on council tax.

All information is available on the council’s transparency pages at www.rbwm.gov.uk/transparency and if anyone is interested in learning more we are always happy to talk to them.

Cllr Liam Maxwell

Cabinet Member for Sustainability

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

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