Recycling reward schemes shunned

Financial incentive schemes designed to encourage householders to recycle more are being shunned by the majority of councils, research suggested today.

Schemes such as the "Recyclebank" programme, which give householders vouchers for local shops in return for recycling, have been championed by the Tories as a way to encourage rather than force green behaviour.

The first Recyclebank scheme, in Windsor and Maidenhead, was hailed as a better way to boost recycling than the failed "pay-as-you-throw" pilot proposed by the previous Government.

The pilot, which would have charged residents for throwing away too much rubbish, was roundly rejected by town halls.

But just one of 117 councils which responded to a Press Association survey, Halton in Cheshire, has introduced a Recyclebank rewards scheme.

Some 15 local authorities said they were monitoring the success of rewards schemes or looking into the feasibility of innovative recycling programmes.

Bexley in London is bringing in a "green points" scheme to reward householders and their communities for boosting recycling and cutting waste.

And Gwynedd council said it had run a scheme to measure participation and recycling weights in one community, which had boosted its recycling levels as a result, with the local school rewarded with vouchers for books.

But elsewhere, councils raised concerns about the incentive schemes.

Wiltshire council said: "Whilst we will examine the results of trials with interest, we do have a concern that, like the now-abandoned 'pay as you throw' penalty scheme proposals of the previous government, they require a council to keep records on residents' performance."

Northumberland County Council said it had no incentive schemes and "no money to introduce any at this time", while several said the programmes did not represent value for money.

And others said schemes such as Recyclebank were unnecessary if councils provided good recycling services, with North Lincolnshire council claiming "we currently recycle over 51% of all household waste without the need for gimmicks, carrots or sticks".

Councils are running a number of other initiatives, including providing home composters for free or at a reduced price, and real nappy schemes to cut the use of disposable nappies which end up in landfill.

Many local authorities said they were running education programmes designed to raise awareness of recycling, for example in schools, or are signed up to national campaigns such as "Love Food Hate Waste".

Local Government Minister Bob Neill said: "The best way to build a greener, cleaner community is for councils to do more to collect rubbish regularly and to encourage recycling for example by rewarding people for going green as Windsor and Maidenhead have done."