Let’s bring back rewards for recycling!

19th April 2023

By Mark Hall

Let’s bring back rewards for recycling!

Spend the day litter-picking, get free money

Local authorities should reward people who pick up litter and bring back plastics, glass and metals for recycling.

With grass verges and hedgerows all over the country bursting at their seams with litter, councils should seek to reward people who’d like to make a difference, says one waste and recycling company.

That’s why waste collection company Divert.co.uk is proposing a low-cost scheme where people can collect litter, and get paid the going rate for recyclables they turn in.

“There are people all over the country who could use that little extra cash,” says Divert.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “and offering them organised rewards will help them out, boost recycling rates, and make the places where we live so much better.”

So what’s the big idea?

It’s council organised litter picks, with corporate sponsorship.

“We’ve been shocked while out and about this spring at the level of casual littering in both town and countryside, and there just doesn’t seem to be much motivation from anybody to do something about it,” says Divert’s Mark Hall.

Divert.co.uk has seen whole village hedgerows stuffed with empty energy drink cans, flung there by local teenagers and other ne’er-do-wells.

“That’s becoming a monster problem,” says Mark, “and I fully intended that pun”.

There are also empty bottles, both plastic and glass, which are fully recyclable, but currently being eyesores that are also a risk to local ecology.

“We want to see local authorities stepping up, and asking people to go out there and bring back recyclables, and if civic pride isn’t reason enough to help out, there should be the offer of cold, hard cash too,” says Mark.

And if hard-up councils can’t afford this, there’s a huge opportunity for a big name company to be associated with the programme through sponsorship. Everybody wins, says Divert.

“Imagine a fully organised local event on a Saturday where families get out and clear up the place where they live, work and play,” says Mark Hall. “It’s community spirit, and ideal for a corporate sponsor to help with the funding.”

Yes, but people will game the system, won’t they?

Wherever there’s an attempt to reward people for doing a good deed, people will always try to game the system to the advantage. This is why, as a rule, we are not allow to have nice things, says Divert.

Back when Tesco was offering Green Club Card points for every item recycled, some customers cut cans and plastic bottles in half so they’d count double. As a result, Tesco halved the reward, and once again we weren’t allowed to have nice things.

So what if people turned up with bags of empty cans and bottles they’ve already collected?

And we’ve thought about it and say this: Who cares? It’s still litter off the streets and waste going to recycling, no matter where it has come from. Just don’t go stealing recycling out of other people’s bins or bottle banks because that’s still actual theft in the eyes of the law.

We’ve also thought about whether any scheme should pay scrap value for the thousands of empty laughing gas canisters lying around parks, the result of youthful misadventure with inhaling Nitrous Oxide for kicks.

And the answer is, of course, a big ‘no’.

“Yes,” says Mark Hall, “we do need people to clear this mess up, but to offer money for them would be to encourage their use. It’s a fine line between reward and lawlessness.”

But it’s an idea whose time has come, says Divert. “Some of our older colleagues remember the 5p back on the empty bottle of pop, and we ought to try it again.”

“It’s all about pride in our local area, and doing the right thing”, says Mark, “and this is doing the right thing.”