Councils can reduce landfill costs by focusing higher up the waste hierarchy - and boost the local green economy too, writes Rebecca Goodwin, waste minimisation and recycling officer, Bexley Council
The Local Green Points scheme was launched in the London Borough of Bexley last autumn to 2,000 households in Thamesmead. It has recently been expanded to include a further 15,000 properties across the borough, so how does it work?
Local Green Points works on the premise that avoiding waste disposal delivers cost savings to the council. The scheme seeks to achieve this by rewarding people for increasing the amount they reduce, reuse and recycle.
Graham Simmonds, partner at Local Green Points, says: “We want people to become fully engaged in the scheme. To do this, households activate their account and then they are incentivised through a range of exclusive offers and discounts provided by local independent retailers.
“Activated households receive a Green Points card and key fob, and simply show this to the retailer when they make a purchase. It is proving very popular with both residents and retailers. The ‘local angle’ is helping to drive more business for independent high street traders.”
For each residual waste collection round, Green Points establishes the weight of residual waste collected over a set period before the scheme starts. After the launch, the residual waste collected is measured and compared with the baseline.
This means that Local Green Points can provide a fully inclusive scheme for people living in flats as well as houses. Where a reduction has been recorded, a saving is achieved, and it is from a proportion of this saving that the allocation of Green Points is distributed among activated households on that round.
People can accrue points to make a purchase from a range of eco-products or experiences from an online reward shop or paper catalogue for offline accounts. People can also donate points to one of three local charity projects.
One of the challenges facing incentive schemes is how their operation affects a council’s waste service.
Simmonds says: “Local Green Points does not require the investment of capital equipment or any change to the way councils or their contractors manage waste collection and disposal.
“If anything, we would rather that changes are minimised so we can more accurately assess the impact of the scheme.”
Bexley Council believes that the community approach is helping to drive behaviour change. The fact that residents can donate their points to charity projects, combined with all the special offers from cafés and local retailers, helps to build a sense of community. It encourages people to recycle and think more about what they are throwing out.
Residents benefiting from green scheme
In Thamesmead, more than 30% of residents have so far activated their Local Green Points account, and are benefiting from the offers provided by around 60 local retailers. They are also earning Green Points, paid for by Bexley Council out of savings from reduced residual waste and increased recycling. The scheme has been part-funded by the London Waste and Recycling Board through its flats recycling initiative, and is now being rolled out to cover all 17,000 purpose-built flats across the borough.