Timlett, R.E. and Williams, I.D.
Public participation and recycling performance in England: a comparison of tools for behaviour change
Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 52, (4), . (doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2007.08.003).
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Improving the quality and capture of materials collected for recycling is at the top of the waste agenda for many English local authorities. In recent years, the focus has shifted away from general awareness raising techniques in favour of methods that can bring
about behaviour change. This paper reports on three projects each using a different behaviour change based approach, which all aimed to increase participation in the recycling collection scheme and to reduce inclusion of non-targeted materials (“contamination”). The three projects—one doorstepping-based, one incentives-based and one delivering personalised feedback to residents were carried out in Portsmouth between 2005 and 2006 during a period where there were no major changes to the collection infrastructure. The findings show that personalised incentives and feedback were highly effective at reducing contamination. Both methods resulted in a halving of the number of households setting out contaminants on collection day. The feedback approachwas considerably more cost-effective than the other two approaches, costing £0.50 per household to implement the campaign and averaging £3.00 for every household which subsequently displayed behaviour change. There was little improvement in the quality of collected materials attributed to doorstepping alone. None of the projects resulted in significant changes in recycling scheme participation; however, this may be because participation was initially high. These findings suggest that behaviour change is most effectively brought about using simple, low-cost methods to engage with residents at the point of service delivery, i.e. by the collection crews whilst emptying bins. The challenge now is to integrate this into service delivery as standard.
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