Recycling Reward Schemes: Have They Worked?
A recent report into the various government funded schemes to promote recycling have found a lack of change in attitudes and contributions to recycling over the past few years.
The waste reward and recognition scheme was set up following a pledge in the 2011 Waste Strategy to give local authorities opportunities to try new ways of encouraging recycling behaviour, with the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) allocating £2 million to 31 different reward schemes across the UK. Recycling rates have been at around 45% of waste from households in recent years, so the scheme was implemented by the Tory government to boost figures and meet the EU 2020 target of 50%.
The schemes aimed to promote recycling and improved waste management with a number of incentives, from prize draws and points systems, to contests for the highest levels of recycling amongst student halls.
A report by DEFRA conducted this year to examine the success of the reward schemes concluded that “schemes did not experience a sea change in recycling tonnage, participation, or claimed behaviour”, with many of the recycling schemes discontinued after government funding was no longer received.
The report showed that only eight schemes out of the 31 set up around the UK continued once the government funding was withdrawn. The reasons given for these schemes not continuing included “not showing a positive impact on tonnage”, as well as a lack of funding and skills to implement the schemes permanently. The initiative has therefore been concluded as a failure in increasing recycling figures, with many critics suggesting that more cost effective methods could have been implemented instead.
It was concluded that the new initiatives to boost recycling figures “failed to act as a catalyst for new behaviours”, suggesting that more should be done to reinforce existing recycling habits rather than try to encourage new people to take part.
What’s more, the report suggested that incentive schemes are actually more expensive to run than alternative measures, such as the savings that could be made on simply paying less tax on sending rubbish to landfill, or projects that benefit the community as a whole. The most motivating factor found through surveying, in fact, was simply transparency between the local authorities and the community, sharing how much is saved from recycling and reusing.
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