Boris promises payments to Londoners for recycling

April 15, 2008 at 1:30 pm

At an environmental manifesto launch on Hampstead Heath last month, Boris Johnson, the Conservative candidate for London Mayor, promised to pay Londoners to recycle if he is elected on May 1st. London has fallen behind the rest of the UK with recycling and Boris hopes that the introduction of a scheme similar to one working successfully in America, may make all the difference. Perhaps predictably, current mayor, Ken Livingstone, has denounced the idea as “unconvincing green camouflage”.

Over the last three years the Philadelphia based private company, RecycleBank, has managed to make American households increase their recycling rates by 200% and now operates in over two hundred cities and towns in the States. The scheme works by measuring each household’s recycling and rewarding them with vouchers exchangeable for goods.

The high-tech wheelie bins contain a computer chip which stores the householder’s details, including an online account number, which is credited with “Recycle Bank Dollars” after special computers on the collection trucks scan the barcode, weigh the recyclable materials and work out the reward, which averages out at around $8 a week for most households. The balance on the account can be accessed online and spent in over 250 stores, including national names such as Starbucks, as well as local participating shops. Alternatively, consumers can choose to donate their dollars to local environmental charities.

Mr Johnson plans to get the Conservative councils of Westminster, Maidenhead and Windsor discussing the scheme with RecycleBank to pioneer a similar scheme in the UK. He has stated that the initiative has proved so successful in America because it rewards people for recycling, rather than punishing them by taxes for producing waste.

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