After two successful pilot scheme that saw 75% of residents participate, Windsor and Maidenhead today launched our groundbreaking 'pay the public to recycle' scheme across all 66,000 homes in the borough. Eric Pickles, Caroline Spelman and Adam Afriyie (Windsor's MP) joined us to launch the full borough roll out.
Eric Pickles used the occasion to announce the demise of the woeful Labour Bin Tax regime.
The scheme works by:
- Changing to a single recycling bin (from 2 boxes).
- Fitting a chip in the bin (it's an opt in scheme, if you don't want to join we don't activate the chip)
- Weighing the recycling bin at the weekly collection.
Residents are awarded points which they can redeem as voucher or money off tokens at local and national businesses.
It's good for:
- the residents, who are rewarded for recycling more,
- the council, because as recycling goes up, waste to landfill goes down and
- local businesses, who generate more custom.
The scheme has worked well, we ran a experimental pilot in June last year to make sure the equipment worked and then ran a full scale pilot from September using one of the eight bin rounds in the borough. We've now got over 100 reward partners from Marks and Spencer to Coffee Republic, from the best curry house in Ascot to Legoland.
The results were overwhelming, 75% of our residents signed up, recycling is up by 35% and the average reward per household looks set to hit the £130 per year mark. If the scheme carries on at the current rate it will reduce our landfill tax exposure by a meaningful amount and make our promise to keep council tax down easier to live up to (we cut the tax by 4% this year).
It's a clear example of where incentives work – the thought of using residents' money to pay for council officers to inspect residents' bins is just completely opposite to our vision of a lean, effective approach to local government.
The two areas of pushback are in the microchips and in the treatment of flats.
The scheme is opt in and therefore that makes our (rigorous) approach to the issue of privacy more sustainable – this was also the first council scheme where we conducted a full privacy impact assessment which is well worth doing. But BigBrotherWatch are right to chase us, and any council, to make sure that it stays that way. We are committed to it being opt-in, any councils that follow us should do the same and make sure that is a promise.
The other area is flats. When you can't fit a bin in your flat, the scheme is difficult. There is a solution for large tower blocks being tried out in New York at the moment, but for classic British flats, where there are 3-10 residents sharing a bin the idea that is getting most traction is to share the bin and the points. This is very much a work in progress, we'll see how it goes.
This idea has come a long way since we were introduced to it by George Osborne's office in 2008; it has helped us communicate with our residents in a completely different way with a much more trusting and
co-operative relationship. The "Nudge Agenda" was much criticised at that time and it is in no way the answer to many problems. But in certain areas, where every little helps, incentives can make a big difference and cut tax. That's surely better for less?
This is our first go at a scheme like this and I'd be very grateful for any feedback on how we can make it better….