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Recycling stars a success on Norfolk estate

An estate where the binmen once needed police protection has just reaped the rewards of its ‘Recycling Stars’ incentive scheme.

Last year Norfolk police had to accompany the Serco collection team for two of their rounds after an incident on the Abbey Estate in Thetford, when a resident became abusive to the binmen after receiving a ‘red card’ warning for contaminating his recycling bin. According to Breckland council the incident was “isolated” and has not happened before or since.

In contrast, last week the council awarded £2000 to two schools on the estate, in recognition of the estate’s improved recycling efforts.

With funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) through its Household Incentive Pilot Schemes, the council ran a 6-month trial on the estate. Containing 1,148 households and having the highest unemployment rate in the district, Breckland recycling officer Lee Williams said the estate’s recycling was “terrible” at the start of the scheme. Black recycling bins were often filled with waste such as nappies and dog faeces, forcing the council to reject the loads and send them to landfill.

A red and yellow card system had been used on the estate since 2003, where households who contaminated their recycling bins were issued ‘red card’ cautions and those who had put in materials that couldn’t yet be recycled were issued with lesser ‘yellow cards’ providing them with more recycling information.

Tackling the contamination problem, the Recycling Stars trial gave star vouchers to households who recycled correctly, to be collected for cash prizes for schools on the estate. Modified red cards were given to those who didn’t recycle properly, explaining an opportunity had been missed to help the community. As a result of the trial, the number of red cards issued, and therefore bins contaminated reduced from 200 to 57 and has provided the council with high quality recyclables collections.

The council now hopes to use similar incentive schemes in other target areas.

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