Rewards, not penalties gets results!

Filed in Waste News by on April 9, 2010 15 Comments
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Rewards encourage people to recycle more

Rewards encourage people to recycle more

As we’ve said time and time again on my zero waste; we need to reward people for good recycling behaviour, not penalise them when they get it wrong or don’t take part.

It seems the Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead really get this idea!

They’ve been trialling a pilot idea of rewarding 6,500 residents who recycle properly; to the tune of £13o per year.

They’ve now decided to expand the scheme to the entire borough after seeing fantastic results. Since the launch of the optional pilot, 70% of eligible households have activated their rewards accounts and recycling tonnages in the participating households have increased by at least 35%.

Their spokesperson said “We have demonstrated that incentives help change behaviour.

“Incentives – not penalties – are the way forward and councils in other parts of the country are following the Royal Borough’s lead as they look for ways of helping residents change the way they dispose of waste and increase their recycling.

“The beauty of the rewards programme is that everyone wins – residents, local businesses, the council and, importantly, our environment.”

Read the rest of the story “Recycling rewards rolled out across entire Borough” and let me know what you think.

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (15)

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  1. Julie Day says:

    What a great idea. I do hope that it catches on across the country. This sort of thing should be done in supermarkets for plastic bags too, although I know Sainsbury’s are rewarding extra points for reusing your own bags.

  2. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    There are often scare stories in the press, and in website posters, who say Pay As you Throw is the future when in fact Incentivised Recycling has already proved successful in 2 council areas. Rewarding good behaviour is a far better approach where everybody can win. Our local commingled collection has been a winner from day one but incentives would improve the process even further. Flats are a problem area since communal collections are standard. These might be the best places to start incentives since cooperation between people there is required, rather than the individual family effort elsewhere.

  3. Mrs Green says:

    @Julie Day: Hi Julie, Supermarket incentives with loyalty points is a great idea. Tesco support this too I believe. I would definitely be in favour of incentives for recycling and have put this forward to our council as a suggestion.

    @John Costigane: I agree John; incentives / rewards are the way forward. Paul Connett spoke of this during his wonderful talk a couple of months ago – he’s seen its success first hand in Italy. Great idea about offering incentives to people who find it a challenge to recycle. It must be very difficult with limited collections and small living spaces.

  4. LJayne says:

    This is my borough 🙂 🙂 🙂 I wasn’t part of the trial so I’m SO pleased they’ve decided to roll it out to everyone now. Can’t wait for my commingled blue bin 🙂 🙂 🙂

  5. Littlefoot says:

    Reward scheme is a brilliant idea. I have family that have received letters saying that they could be fined by not putting the correct rubbish in the correct recycling bin, resulting in my grandparents, and probably many more, deciding that they didn’t want to recycle at all! I think their decision would be different if they could pottentially get a reward by recycling correctly.

    2 years ago our local council introduced a bin collection for garden waste, about time too! Unfortunately you have to pay an additional £20 per year for the scheme. We signed up from the onset, but this year we are still only one of 2 households on our street that have a “brown bin.” I feel people generally do not want saving the environment to have a negative effect on their wallet!

  6. LJayne says:

    That’s interesting about the garden waste Littlefoot. Windsor & Maidenhead charge 29 pounds a year (or 52 pounds if you sign up for 2 years at the outset) and they will empty your bin every fortnight. You just put it out on the relevant Monday with the rest of your rubbish – everything else collected weekly here still 🙂

    There is still a free, ad-hoc service where you can phone up the council and say you have garden waste to be removed but then you have to wait and see what date and time they give you for collection. The paid-for system is more popular than expected. I guess because you get rewards for it, like the trial people for the new commingled recycling blue bins. Plus its much easier than going to the tip. Our civic amenity site does take & mulch garden waste but it is right over the other side of town from most of the residential streets.

  7. Jane says:

    @Littlefoot: Garden waste is interesting in that I have seen large wheelies for this introduced and people using them instead of composting. This raises the recycling percentage rate but also the total amount of waste – not what was intended!

    Re Grandparents – I think poor publicity/lack of clear downloadable info has a lot to do with this. If people are confident with what they should be doing they are more likely to do it and get it right and are consequently happier than if their rubbish isn’t collected – and they don’t know why, who exactly to ask and what to do with the uncollected rubbish until the next collection.

    I am dealing with a LA at the moment whose printed info does not agree with the info they are giving me on email – when what I need to help Grandparents is to be able to get for them CLEAR INFO to pin up in the kitchen.

  8. Jane says:

    The incentives I like are money back for reusing something. I would like to see more refillable/returnable bottles too – isn’t it time we paid more for packaging so that it was worth our while avoiding it and returning it?

  9. Littlefoot says:

    @LJayne: Yeah I think £20 is good value, like you say saves making trips to the tip and has also been an incentive to clear out our overgrown garden (it’s been sadly neglected since we moved in :-S) To be honest though, don’t think our local community are big on gardening, most are graveled with a few conifers…

    @Jane: We finally got a compost bin this year, it’s been on my to do list for the last 3… now I’m thinking of getting one of those bokashi ones for the kitchen too. I usually save any peelings to make veg stock, but that means I can’t put them into a regular compost bin due to possibly encouraging rats? Any way, I’m still using the brown bin for all the brambles I’ve dug up this year and also for any other woody stuff… I was putting perenial weeds in there but now I’ve found out a way to compost those seperately so that hopefully wont contaminate the garden with them.
    Re Grandparents, not sure whether their decision was to do with not knowing what to put in or just a kind of mini rebellion! But I agree, clear info would be great. We have a check list that was sent from our council and it really comes in handy. But even with this there are items that we’re not sure about.

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @LJayne: Oooo, Lesley; I don’t mind admitting, I’m a bit envious! Let us know how it goes! You can be my correspondent from the front line 😀

    @Littlefoot: You make some great points, Littlefoot. I agree that the fear of penalties puts some people off trying at all. Interesting that you are one of only 2 households in your street who are prepared to pay for green waste. At the moment our collections are free and most houses use it; but it may be on the cards to charge and it will be interesting to see how many suddenly find another way to deal with it, or not …
    Well done on setting up your compost bin – I had a look at your blog and you’re doing brilliantly.

    @Jane: I like your ideas for incentives for reusing and your idea of charging more for packaging so that we ‘value’ it more.

  11. Jane says:

    @Littlefoot: I understood that it was better to put your compost bin on a slab to stop rats digging their way in. I have a wormery and use this for peelings – or if I’m lazy the food waste bin.

  12. LJayne says:

    I put my compost bin on a slab but it didn’t stop the rats, oops! I’ve got one of those heavy duty plastic dalek ones that councils supply. It has small vent holes in one side and the rats gnawed those bigger. So we have to be extremely careful what we put in. But there have been rats at the bottom of the garden for over 40 years according to our neighbours as we back onto garages.

  13. Jane says:

    I like the idea of giving the compost bin a thump every time you walk past!

    Have a look at the piece above. It may help. Mrs G also had a page on composting.

  14. Nick Palmer says:

    Of course, carrot AND stick is the most effective of all. There have been too many Daily Mail stories about frail saintly grannies being fined £5,000 for not taking the labels off their banana skins.

    Incentivised reward systems – h*ll, call them payment – for correctly separating etc are very effective but they do cost councils extra money… which has to come from somewhere… which is where the “stick” comes in.

    People who refuse to recycle at all, or who are clearly sabotaging the systems, should be charged extra for their waste disposal. Like all green accounting tax and dividend schemes, it should be approximately fiscally neutral. They should never be used to generate revenue for the council.

    Systems where something is made illegal to control it, depend upon the continuing diligence and enthusiasm of the enforcement authorities to be effective. People resent something they have been doing for decades, which they don’t fully understand is so bad anyway, being declared illegal. They don’t like being told what to do unnecessarily (in their view).

    If they are charged for “bad” behaviour and paid for good behaviour, psychologically speaking, it will be incredibly effective faster than you would believe.

  15. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: The trouble with putting the compost bin on slabs is that you then have to introduce worms yourself, as they usually crawl in from the soil underneath the heap.

    @LJayne: Lesley, there is a rat within 6 feet of you wherever you are in the UK 😉

    @Nick Palmer: I hear you on the incentives. Gloucester council say they will save £175,000 per year by introducing their new recycling scheme; that didn’t sound very much to me, but perhaps that money could be used as rewards in some way.
    I think you’re right both carrots and sticks could be used for the best results. Interesting thoughts as ever – thank you!

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