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Recycling reward schemes ‘not cost-effective’

Recycling reward schemes have not proved to be cost-effective, according to analysis published by Defra.

Between 2011 and 2014, the department provided up to £2m for 31 pilot projects to incentivise residents to reuse and recycle. Of these, 25 involved local authorities.

Schemes used the cash for prize draws, individual rewards, community rewards, competitions and for offering positive feedback to householders.

Analysis by consultancy Brook Lyndhurst has found that, overall, savings achieved by the schemes did not outweigh the expenditure, with only eight programmes continuing after Defra’s funding.

Defra’s report says: “Although cost savings have been achieved by some schemes, overall they are expensive to run and appear to cost more than they could potentially generate. These costs often exceeded the estimated savings generated.”

Brook Lyndhurst found that ”improvements in recycling and reuse tended to be linked to better services, communications and promotion” rather than being attributable directly to any reward element.

The researchers concluded that schemes did not produce a notable change in recycling tonnage, participation or behaviour.

Most programmes were discontinued because there was no business case and the tonnage did not increase while the eight that were retained did so for reasons such as having covered the set-up costs or securing additional funding.

Despite this, the report recommends councils consider replicating elements of some schemes to boost hard-to-reach properties with communal recycling facilities such as social housing, university accommodation and flats.

The eight schemes that continued were:

  • ARA Community & Social Development
  • Bolton Council
  • Bracknell Forest Council
  • Colchester Borough Council
  • Eco Communities
  • Furniture Matters
  • North Tyneside Council
  • National Union of Students

The Department for Communities and Local Government has provided £5m funding for similar schemes since Defra’s pilot, but it is available only to councils providing weekly residual collections.

A spokesperson for Greenredeem said: “We note with interest the outcome of the analysis by Brook Lyndhurst of the 31 pilot projects, funded by Defra, between 2011 & 2014. Greenredeem will be releasing impact analysis for its partners, in the coming weeks.”

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