Recycling incentive schemes provide rewards to users for actively participating in the program. 

TARGET USERS: Individuals, Businesses, Government

KEY CONSIDERATIONS: Consists of payments or rewards given to users to encourage people to recycle more, typically with vouchers for individuals, vouchers for communities or payments to individuals.



    Plastic recycling rates remain low and stagnant across the globe, with vast volumes of plastic being disposed of and leaking into nature. There is little economic incentive for individuals and businesses to separate and return plastic materials, relying heavily on social patterns and influence to increase recycling and separation.  



    Financial instruments are designed to persuade households and waste producers to strive towards diverting waste from landfills, recycle more waste and optimize the use of resources in order to prevent the generation of wastes, and, at the same time, contribute to financing waste management activities.

    Formally speaking, financial incentives include both rewards (to be described here as recycling incentives) and charges (defined here as pay-as-you-throw PAYT, and deposit refund schemes). But it is commonly accepted that recycling incentives schemes are essentially different from PAYT schemes. They consist of payments or rewards given to the users to encourage people to recycle more, typically with vouchers for individuals, vouchers for communities or payments to individuals. In addition to direct incentives in the form of vouchers, an effective recycling incentive is also the reduction of waste fees for residents willing to separate more waste at source or when waste recycling targets at local level are achieved.

    Incentives can be used to encourage more people to take part in recycling schemes. The number of people that are encouraged to take part will vary depending on a variety of factors including: how the scheme is set up, the incentives provided and the socio-economic background of the households taking part.



    This policy is inline with other financial mechanisms including deposit refund schemes, pay-as-you-throw schemes, single-use plastic levies and taxes and extended producer responsibility policies.



    Bracknell Forest Council, in the south of England, manages the waste from a total population of 118 000. Given the low recycling rate, and of the increasing price of the landfill tax in the region (up to GBP 80 per tonne), the council decided to implement a pilot self-funded incentive scheme. The implementation of the scheme followed these principles:

    Objective: The council decided to implement a system to save costs from the landfill tax. The system was implemented following advice from their waste contractor (note that in the UK waste cannot be charged through pay-as-you throw schemes and a fixed fee is charged to citizens through the 'Council Tax').

    It is considered that a potential saving of GBP 300 000 could be achieved only from avoidable landfill tax in three years. The key objectives were to increase the number of households participating in the curbside recycling service from 75 % to 82 % in two years and to reduce the rate of recyclable materials in residual fractions from 13 % to at least 8 %.

    Implementation: A first phase, as a pilot scheme, was successfully implemented and then extended to the whole town. Citizens can opt out and there is no mandate to be part of the reward system.

    Technology: Every citizen opting in is given an e+ card where points are accumulated. Blue bins are supplied at no cost for the final user. Points are given per pick-up of these bins, which are emptied if eligible by the personnel of the waste truck. No weight system is necessary and no fee reduction is offered in the management of the residual waste bin.

    Rewards: No cashable value is given to the users of the system, but a maximum total value of GBP 26 in credits (points) per year. Rewards that can be redeemed with the points accumulated are seen as a marketing aspect of the scheme. Some of the rewards are as follows:

    Council services rewards: The main rewards were offered as leisure rewards, e.g. as discounts or direct access to sports facilities, membership to local clubs, gyms, pools, etc.

    Green rewards: These are designed to help the municipality to achieve further landfill reductions, while making them freely available if enough credit is accumulated on the e+ card (compost bins for example).

    Items: Although not used in the pilot scheme, some rewards include offers in local shops.

    The implementation was considered successful by the council of Bracknell Forest, as at least 11 000 households joined the scheme (a quarter of the total number of households). The amount of residual waste was reduced by 1 000 tonnes, representing a saving of GBP 90 000 (from 1 April 2013 till July 2014), achieving the objectives of the pilot trial; therefore, the system is now implemented at full scale.

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