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Developing a bid for Pickles’ recycling rewards fund - what can local authorities learn from the 2012 recycling fund?

Source: Public Sector Executive Oct/Nov 2014

Rob Crumbie, marketing and communications manager at Greenredeem, the rewards scheme that incentivises recycling, explores the impact of government recycling incentive funds.

Eric Pickles recently announced there would be a new £5m recycling incentive fund for local councils. With this announcement, countless local authorities will be considering bidding for the chance to introduce an incentive scheme into their boroughs. As England needs to hit the EU waste and recycling target of 50% by 2020, local authorities are looking at using this fund as a catalyst to kick start stagnating recycling rates. But as part of this process, many will be asking what local authorities can learn from the last incentive fund, which was introduced in 2012.

In 2012, 27 councils were successful when bidding for the previous recycling incentive fund. With this funding, local authorities had the option to implement a scheme themselves or look to bring in a partner with the experience and know-how. In 2012, many local authorities decided to go it alone, and it’s dubious whether they have had any impact.

In fact, research shows that around a third of these councils did not use their funds to introduce any such schemes at all. This money was instead used for other recycling measures, or on entirely non-recycling related activity. At a time when recycling rates are plateauing and in some cases declining, it is frustrating that funds granted by central government specifically to drive recycling rates are then not being used in the way they were intended.

Another issue that local authorities have had to tackle following the 2012 fund, is that of reaping the benefits from costly deployment and investment in bespoke council-led schemes.

Councils have had to make a heavy investment in development, resources and expertise in order to deploy their own scheme, before they begin to see improvements in recycling rates. This isn’t because rewards and incentives schemes don’t work. We’ve seen firsthand how a positive rewards system can make a big difference to recycling behaviour. Take residents in the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead; in 2009, households in the borough were invited to pilot the Greenredeem rewards scheme. To date, more than 35,000 households have signed up to take part. Recycling performance in the borough grew three times faster than the national average to 2012, and residents have earned more than 20 million points for taking green action. Residents are also using points to redeem vouchers for use in local businesses, putting economic benefit back into their local area.

In light of this, local authorities should consider using incentive funds smartly, to generate behaviour change and make a difference. In order to best utilise the funds made available by the government, authorities need to pay close attention to what is currently working for other councils that are increasing recycling rates.

Creating a scheme in-house may be appealing because of the personalisation they offer, but in reality it will require a heavy level of investment to get the scheme off the ground and continue to drive adoption. Whereas, this is something external partners do all the time. These partners have the knowledge and expertise to apply and are specialists in the delivery of incentive schemes.

It is proven that if external partners are on board, recycling rates will and have increased. Residents in Wokingham, where a Greenredeem incentive scheme is running, are now amongst England’s biggest recyclers, with 94% of residents claiming to recycle at home. This focus on recycling by Wokingham residents is apparent, with a 28% increase in the amount recycled in 2013 compared to 2012.

Third-party recycling schemes have the resources and experience to lead local authorities towards their goal of boosting recycling rates among their residents. They have the expertise of developing and sustaining schemes that collaborate with the local community. For example, a recycling scheme led by a local council may adopt a rewards package, but expert schemes understand how to communicate with the local residents to motivate their behaviour. This, in turn, cannot only increase their household recycling but increase community engagement and support local businesses. 

Over the coming weeks, councils are going to have to consider many factors in order to submit a successful grant application and to make the scheme a success. However, a good rewards platform will not only deliver rewards, but engage, communicate and educate residents.

The challenge for many local authorities is finding the right scheme to create lasting community change. With 2020 just around the corner, and a marginal 44.2% of all waste in the UK being recycled, England’s local authorities that are bidding for part of the incentive fund to boost recycling rates need to pay attention to those adopting and sustaining increased recycling rates.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


H Spikes   25/11/2014 at 10:31

potentially tens of thousands spent on bidding for a share of a measly £5m fund! Why bother?

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