Councillor Robert Benham, Mickey Organ of Everyone Active, Councillor Melvin Wallace, and Graham Simmonds of Local Green PointsCllr Robert Benham is Cabinet Member for Environment for the London Borough of Havering and Councillor for Brooklands Ward in Havering.

Havering is the first local authority in the country to reward residents for reducing the amount of rubbish thrown out as part of our broader Cleaner Havering Campaign.  Through our reward scheme, London Green Points – Havering, we have identified a range of ways we want to change the behaviours of our residents when it comes to waste, from composting at home to utilising recycling banks and repairing electrical equipment.

As Environment Cabinet Member for Havering and also a Councillor on the Board of the East London Waste Authority, I’m acutely aware of the escalating cost of waste disposal, plus of course the environmental impact of landfill and incineration.  It therefore makes perfect sense for us at Havering to ‘nudge’ our residents to do the right thing by offering a ‘carrot’, and since our scheme launched in 2014 we have seen our residents embrace it with enthusiasm – over 25% of the Borough (25,000 households) are already signed up and it’s very encouraging to see residents donating their points to the local hospice, friends of parks, and other local Good Causes.   Redeeming points for swims at our leisure centres is also proving very popular.  We’ve even got people sending us selfies of themselves at bring banks to boost their points balance.

We’ve drawn on the expertise of a specialist provider, Local Green Points, to operate our reward scheme and for councils considering a resident reward scheme I recommend working with external experts; this is a new area for local government and there’s no reason why a waste and recycling manager would understand the technology and marketing complexities involved in running a reward scheme.  We are committed to weekly residual collections and have benefitted from a grant from CLG’s Weekly Waste Fund that enabled us to introduce our scheme, and with another 45 local authorities winning grants this year through CLG’s Recycling Reward Scheme fund, we would be pleased to share our learning with other councils as this is likely to be an area that develops quickly across the country.

Waste and recycling is a natural start point for resident rewards with its obvious business case based on reduced disposal costs and more income from recycled materials like glass and paper.  We are now starting to tackle other behaviours too and have introduced rewards to our employees who cycle to work – something we are also encouraging local businesses to adopt as it feeds directly into our sustainable transport strategy.

Offering residents a carrot for doing the right thing fits well with our Cleaner Havering Campaign.  Fly tipping, litter and dog mess generate strong feelings amongst our residents and we’re encouraging takeaways, snack shops and supermarkets to sign an anti-litter pledge, as well as mobilising community clean ups and running a campaign to encourage dog owners to dispose of their dog mess safely and responsibly.

Our experience at Havering is that residents are very receptive to doing the right thing and whilst we still use enforcement and penalties when it’s needed, we are finding that the carrot is proving to be a very effective tool; it nudges people into action, creates a stronger sense of working together and focuses residents on the positive impact they can have on the local environment.