Review of evidence on the use of reward and recognition schemes in enhancing recycling and waste prevention behaviours

Funded by: Defra


April 2011 to August 2011

PSI researchers:

Ben Shaw

Robin Vanner

Elisabetta Mocca

Background, summary and aims

Background, Scope and Aims

The aim of this project was to deliver a Scoping Review and Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) to explore effectiveness of reward and recognition schemes in changing behaviour, with particular reference to recycling and waste-prevention behaviour.

The project drew on existing academic and grey literature in the waste and wider fields (such as health and other types of pro-environmental behaviour) to explore the potential role for reward and recognition schemes in promoting sustained waste-prevention behaviours. It highlighted key lessons for policy and practice regarding the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of such incentive-based schemes, and examined which incentives work, with whom, in what contexts, and in conjunction with which other policy tools. It also explored the possibility of secondary outcomes, including both positive and negative spillover effects.

Project Design

The project adopted a three-stage approach:

  • Stage 1. Initial review and case studies . Data was extracted from the sources deemed of most relevance and highest quality, and synthesised into the scoping review. Based on the data identified, a further output of this stage was the development of a detailed typology of different types of reward and recognition schemes, which informed the selection of five case-study schemes for more in-depth analysis, via documentary review, expert interviews and secondary data-analysis. These provided a better understanding of schemes designed to motivate positive waste behaviours, focusing on: whether they have resulted in desired impacts; critical success factors; and key lessons for future scaling up or replication of such schemes.
  • Stage 2. Rapid Evidence Assessment. This expanded on the findings of the Stage 1 scoping review, providing additional and complementary insights for policy and practice in light of earlier UK and non-UK international published evidence, as well as emerging unpublished findings. These additional insights were also used to refine the typology developed in Stage 1.
  • Stage 3. Project Reporting. This drew together the findings of Stages 1 and 2 (as well as two optional stages – focus groups and a business rapid review), highlighting key findings, research gaps and implications for policy and practice in concise, tailored, policy-relevant reports, which were disseminated widely to intended and potential users.

Importance of Research

The project assessed the robustness of the existing evidence base on the potential for reward and recognition schemes to influence waste-prevention behaviours. It highlighted how policy-makers in central and local government may best support practitioners, communities and individuals to enhance participation in waste prevention activities.

Related publications / project outputs

Review of evidence on the use of reward and recognition schemes in enhancing recycling and waste prevention behaviours