Incentives for paper collection and recycling

IMPACTPaperRec / Best practice handbook  / Legislation, standardisation & incentives / Incentives for paper collection and recycling

An incentive is something that motivates or encourages someone to (not) act in a certain way. An incentive for paper and board recycling is a measure that motivates or encourages the target audience to improve its performance in paper and board sorting and collection.

Incentivising a specific audience can take various forms and can include anything from the provision of information to ensure the audience is well aware of what it should (not) do (e.g. sorting guidelines); to providing an adapted equipment to enable the desired behavior (e.g. waste collection bins); to applying measures directly rewarding/ punishing a certain behavior (e.g. fines for non-compliance with sorting instructions).

Incentives generally work in two ways: positive and negative. Positive incentives seek to motivate actors to certain actions by promising a reward, whereas negative incentives aim to motivate actions by threatening a punishment. Examples of positive incentives are subsidies for waste reduction technologies. Examples of negative incentives are posing different taxes on big waste amounts. Sometimes it is only a matter of presentation (e.g. pay-as-you-throw scheme could be seen as a penalty for those producing more waste or a reward for those with better performances). It can also be a combination of the two options. For instance, when a landfill tax is set, the incomes from it could be used to help investing in recycling equipment and/or be used to reward the ones doing the right thing.

As it was already mentioned, the different incentives considered in IMPACTPapeRec project can be grouped into three categories: legal and economic; social and communicative; technical and operational.

In addition, the target audience for the various incentives can be considered either (local) public authorities or waste holders (individual citizens, households, small businesses, administrations). The tables below provide an overview of the classification and examples of the incentives identified for each category.

1. Legal and Economic

Available literature suggests that economic incentives are an effective tool to increase waste sorting and recycling.

Classification of legal and economic incentives identified in IMPACTPapeRec project

Category of Incentives Incentives Target Audience
Public authorities Waste Holders
         Legal and economic: Regulatory measures having a legal basis and/or financial implications; mandatory  Legal Obligations:  
– Mandatory Separate collection for different waste streams (incl. paper)  √
– High collection/recycling targets  
Bans and restrictions:    
– Ban/restriction on landfilling   √  
– Ban/restriction on incineration   √  
– Ban of house firing (burning paper for heating)     √
 – Landfill taxes or fees   √  
 – Incineration taxes or fees   √  
 – Pay-As-You-Throw schemes     √
 – Discount on waste tax for separate collection of recyclables     √
– Penalties for non-compliance with mandatory separate collection  √  √
– Separate waste bill linked to the quantity/separate collection rate    √
– Financing EPR schemes for specific streams  √  

2. Social and communicative:

Effective communication and awareness raising activities can improve the chances that recycling information will be absorbed and acted upon. Communication intervention is usually closely related to legal/political framework and to technical/ infrastructure based solutions. Therefore, it is complementary and enhancing the other two aspects.

Classification of legal and economic incentives identified in IMPACTPapeRec project

Category of Incentives Incentives Target Audience
Public authorities Waste Holders
  Social and communicative: Measures aiming to provide information and raise awareness; mainly on voluntary basis Communication campaigns and information channels:
– Awareness-raising campaigns  √
– Provision of complete information about waste collection and recycling  √
– Open days to recycling facilities/paper mills    √
– Promotion of GP and BP   √  
– Use of Eco labels and certifications    √
 Awards and competitions
– Competitions with prizes for most collected/ recycled quantities   √  √

3. Technical and operational:

Separate collection by waste holders requires some resources on their behalf (such as time, space, efforts). Therefore, making the action of separate collection more convenient (minimising distance to collection point, collection frequency, number of materials collected, etc.) should increase their participation.  A number of studies confirm that convenience is a key determinant for separate waste collection.

Classification of legal and economic incentives identified in IMPACTPapeRec project

Category of Incentives Incentives Target Audience
Public authorities Waste Holders
Technical and operational: Material infrastructure and equipment, organisational and logistical measures and expertise Collection infrastructure:
– Convenience and sufficiency of collection infrastructure    √
– Provision of collection infrastructure through EPR schemes  √
Organisation and logistics:    
– Consultancy and adapted solutions by EPR schemes   √  
– Convenient and frequent service    √
 – Less convenient collection for residual waste relative to separated/ Chip to open the residual waste bin (with limitations on disposal and easy to enter paper     √