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News analysis: Doorstepping still proves the most effective way of getting residents to recycle more

Last week, MRW reported the success of a 15-month study led by Rugby Borough Council on the various ways of promoting recycling to residents.

To the council officials carrying out the research, the project's results came as no surprise: knocking on people's front door was the best way to get them recycling more.

Over the years, this simple face-to-face approach has consistently proven to be the most effective way to boost participation in local authorities' recycling schemes.

Campaigns such as Recycle Western Riverside, Recycle for Cornwall and the Devon Doorstepping project have all proven that as long as councils have the manpower, there is no need for a slick multi-million pound advertising campaign - recycling can be boosted by something as simple as a quick chat.

Rugby's study was conducted with the help of Warwickshire Waste Partnership and Warwickshire Environmental Trust and was funded by a grant from the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme through Lafarge Aggregates.

It found that recycling rates increased by 4.4% in the area that received visits from the council's staff.

This compared favourably to the method of putting pro-recycling sticky labels on wheelie bins, which showed an increase of only 1.46%, and a newsletter trial that saw rates rise by just 0.11 per cent across the targeted households.

The only method that got anywhere near matching doorstepping's success was sending targeted leaflets to those households the council knew weren't recycling - just knowing the council knew they weren't doing anything meant householders upped their game by 3.1%.

Commenting on the project's results, Warwickshire Waste Partnership chairman Ken Browne said: "Local authorities are always looking at new ways of encouraging residents to recycle where possible, and this study has been very helpful in identifying the most effective methods. We'll be using the results to plan future campaigns across the County."

While a 4.4% increase is notable, the doorstepping part of Rugby's research only covered 138 households and other larger studies have shown that backed up by publicity, knocking on doors can push recycling rates much higher.
Recycle Western Riverside's doorstepping campaign last year reached 329 houses and a MORI survey of its results found that 22% of households visited reported increasing their recycling as a result.

And a campaign by the Devon Authorities Recycling Partnership in 2002/03 showed the potential of doorstepping on a massive scale.

The Devon Doorstepping project saw over 60,000 doors in the county hit with the recycling message.

At the end of the campaign, which ran from October 16 2002 to March 31 2003, kerbside recycling was up 31% on tonnages registered for the same period the previous year.

Devon Doorstepping project manager Liz Poulter said that any kind of one to one communication was best because not only did it allow councils to get their message across, but it meant getting instant feedback from residents.

She added: "It also gives the doorstepper the chance to dispel any crazy myths about recycling that may be going around."

This added benefit to doorstepping was also noted by the Rugby study, which in its findings said: "This was the only method that allowed detailed feedback from residents regarding the Council's recycling service."

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