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Last Updated: Monday, 11 September 2006, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Praise or penalty for recyclers?
By Jasdeep Mondae
BBC Blast news reporter

Should householders be penalised for their waste or rewarded for recycling their rubbish?

Landfill site
Landfills may be full by 2015

Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw has gone as far as saying that those who do not recycle are "irresponsible" and "antisocial" and revealed the government was considering a "polluters pay" principle where people pay for the amount of waste they produce.

Councillor Paul Bettison, of the Local Government Association, believes recycling is "inescapable" given that UK landfills are expected to be full in nine years time.

"Undoubtedly, the key is behaviour change," he told the BBC News website.

"Public perception is changing, so councils must make it easier to recycle than to not recycle. People should be given the choice and opportunity to recycle, with no exceptions."

A total of 77% of householders would like to see recycling made compulsory, according to a survey conducted earlier this year on behalf of the LGA. Moreover, 64% of the 1,719 people surveyed said they would prefer to be taxed for refuse collection separately from council tax.

So what is the situation around the country? Five councils, chosen at random from across England, explain what they have done to encourage residents to recycle.


Kerbside black box recycling scheme
Seasonal wheelie bin service for green waste
Regular refuse wheelie bin
Various recycling banks
Reduced price compost bins available from the council

In 2003/04 Slough, in the south east, was ranked 234th out of 464 English boroughs for recycling.

Slough participated in a recycling incentive scheme piloted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Residents in Slough were encouraged to recycle in order to receive a cash payout to benefit the whole community.

It is unclear yet what the success of the incentives scheme was. But Defra states: "It is for local authorities to decide how best to incentivise residents."

"There are residents in Slough who are dedicated recyclers, others who recycle a little bit and some people who don't recycle at all," said community recycling officer Sarah Bryan.

The council has been trying to encourage everyone to recycle by sending out teams to offer advice on the services available.


Only one and a half sacks of waste fit in non-recyclable waste wheelie bin
Kerbside green bin recycling scheme
Separate kerbside glass collection
Seasonal garden waste collection service
Regular refuse wheelie bin
Various recycling banks

Sutton was ranked 35th for recycling rates in 2003/04 out of 464 boroughs.

Sutton also participated in the recycling incentives scheme run by Defra. Recycling went up by 12% when residents were made into "Recycling Champions" to provide information and inspiration for others in their community.

Sutton says it prefers the "hearts and minds approach" to recycling, as a more sustainable and long-term route to not only meeting government targets but also changing attitudes and habits.

"Compulsory recycling is not something that our councillors are very keen to follow at the moment," said recycling manager Penny Spirling.

"We do have high participation rates for our recycling services in Sutton and a 30% recycling rate."


Green box kerbside recycling scheme
Proposed wheelie bins for recycling
Regular refuse wheelie bin
Various recycling banks

Up in Cumbria, recycling has not had the best response. In 2003, 1.2m was spent on recycling services but only 12.9% of waste was recycled, putting them 208th in the rankings at the end of the year.

If Cumbria continues to fail to reach government targets, it is likely to be fined 40m over the next five financial years.

Consequently, in Carlisle, green box recycling has boosted recycling to 29% this year.

Carlisle is in the process of reducing landfill waste by using smaller wheelie bins for refuse.
Recycling bins
Kerbside recycling schemes have proved popular

This would be enforced with a fine of up to 75 if refuse exceeds the wheelie bins capacity.

"If we don't act soon we could find the area and its residents being heavily penalised," said Ray Bloxham, Councillor for Environment & Infrastructure.

"We can't stand back from the issue; the implications are too far-reaching."

One of the initiatives adopted is regarding awareness. This summer, recycling shows have toured schools in Carlisle with fun but educational shows, to establish the importance of recycling at a young age.

"We hope that it will help children to learn and remember the recycling message," said Mr Bloxham.


Twin wheelie bins or a sack and a box for waste and recyclables
Brown bins for food waste
Garden waste collection in a limited region
Regular refuse wheelie bin
Various recycling banks

In 2003/04, the county of Devon topped Defra recycling rankings with a rate of 27% but that was still short of its own target of 33%.

Plymouth, the county's biggest city, produces 35% of Devon's annual waste and is in the process of introducing "a dedicated enforcement team" to encourage and ensure that the town is recycling to its fullest potential.

Plymouth places reward and penalty schemes for recycling "alongside education and awareness-raising," rather than the single most important approach.

Plymouth does not quite reach the heights of the rest of the county, with a recycling rate of 16.5 %.


No wheelie bins for refuse, only sacks
Green box kerbside scheme for recyclables
One plastics recycling centre
Blue bin for kitchen waste
Seasonal brown bin garden waste scheme

Hackney was ranked by Defra as 455th out of 464 boroughs for recycling. In February, Hackney was found to have the sixth poorest rate in London, hitting 5.8% below Defra's target.

It piloted both a reward and a penalty scheme and discovered that the penalty scheme had a "much a bigger impact" for promoting recycling.

Now 20,000 households fall under its compulsory recycling scheme. Any householder who fails to correctly separate waste for recycling could be fined 1,000.

This has seen a 20% rise in the amount recycled in the east London borough.

"Introducing compulsory recycling has helped drive the message home and already we are seeing results," said Councillor Alan Laing, cabinet member for neighbourhoods.

Jasdeep Mondae, 18
01 Sep 06 |  UK
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15 Mar 06 |  South East Wales
Non-recyclers face 100 tax hike
22 Jun 06 |  Merseyside


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