Features: October 17th, 2014

Eric Pickles recently announced there would be a new £5m recycling incentive fund for local councils. Many local authorities are now in touching distance of introducing a rewards for recycling programme, and will be considering bidding for the chance to change recycling behaviour in a progressive and positive way. This feature offers suggestions for selecting the right scheme to motivate the community.

As a country we need to hit the EU waste and recycling target of 50% by 2020 and many local authorities are looking at using this fund as a facilitator to kick start stagnating and in some cases, declining recycling rates. Of course, many local authorities received support from the 2012 fund and looking back at what they’ve done is a great way to establish how to approach this opportunity and maximise the benefit from it.

Successful authorities in 2012: Where are they now?

In 2012, twenty seven local councils were successful when bidding for funding from the Recycling Rewards Scheme. With these grants, those local authorities had the opportunity to implement their own scheme or look to bring in an experienced partner. Looking back, there were so many ways in which the fund was invested, from light touch programmes where stickered recycle was selected randomly at a MRF, through to fully fledged rewards programmes, it’s clear that there’s a lot of options for local authorities to consider.

Regrettably, our research shows that around a third of the successful authorities in 2012 did not use their funds to introduce a scheme and funds were instead used for other recycling measures. In some cases the money, which wasn’t ring-fenced at the time, was used for entirely non-recycling related activity. If this fund is to be successful in generating behaviour change, at a time when recycling rates are stagnating and declining, this year’s successful councils must implement programmes that will maximise the benefit locally. Take residents in the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead for example. In 2009, households in the borough were invited to pilot the Greenredeem rewards scheme. To date, over 35,000 households have signed up to take part. Recycling performance in the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead grew three times faster than the national average to 2012 and residents have earned more than 20 million points for taking everyday green actions. Residents are also using points to redeem vouchers for use in local businesses, putting economic benefit back into their local area.

Understanding resident behaviour

By recognising individual behaviour through actions taken in the community, it’s possible to understand more about what motivates residents on an individual level. A study by Greenredeem shows over a quarter (27 per cent) of respondent’s claim they do not recycle because they don’t get anything out of it. By receiving similar insights about local communities it becomes easier to understand what will motivate the community. This process will also build trust and a relationship with residents to best understand how to communicate effectively and drive change.

Wider benefits

Although initially residents will join the community to improve recycling rates, earn points and gain rewards, there’s growing evidence that once embedded, the platform can be used to motivate local residents to other local green actions. Whether it’s promoting a new service, such as paperless billing, increasing the use of public transport or community volunteering.

A challenge that all local authorities will face over the coming years is channel shift – moving services online to streamline them, but also to reduce operating costs. Where to begin? Raising profile and awareness amongst residents could cost tens of thousands of pounds, however a successful and embedded recycling rewards programme is a communications channel – having the ability to talk to residents in the Borough in a dynamic, swift and flexible way. On top of this, successful incentive schemes can help boost local businesses. Local high streets and independent traders are under considerable pressure at the moment from the internet, m-commerce and competition from all angles. Launching, promoting and sustaining local commerce is challenging and the rewards platform within a recycling rewards scheme can give local businesses a valuable lifeline in which to promote themselves to residents in the borough.

It is well understood that people are motivated by different things, and as such, local authorities need to consider an incentive scheme that allows residents some flexibility. For example, allowing residents to choose to donate their points to local good causes. Not everyone is motivated by personal reward, and the ability to recycle to local community groups, such as the local Scout group, can be highly motivating.

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, the challenge for many local authorities is finding the right scheme to create long-lasting community change. With 2020 around the corner and just over 44% of all waste in the UK being recycled, local authorities that are bidding for part of the incentive fund to increase recycling rates should think carefully about the right scheme that’s going to motivate change and be sustainable in the long run. Working with a partner with a tried and trusted record in this space will guarantee success, and create better value for money in the long run.

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