FEBRUARY 2009

‘Pay as you throw’ successfully encourages household recycling in EU

New research has concluded that ‘Pay As You Throw’ waste collection schemes can increase levels of recycling among households, but should be accompanied by effective public information campaigns. Pay As You Throw waste schemes charge households and businesses according to the amount of mixed residual waste they generate. They have been proposed as an effective means of reducing the amount of waste going to landfill, thus helping local authorities meet the requirements of the EU Landfill Directive. The study, conducted under the EU-funded PAYT (Pay As You Throw) project, covered 157 local authority areas in the Czech Republic, with a total population of 2.6 million. All authorities were free to choose their method of charging for the collection of general waste in their area.

Of these, 92 operated a Pay As You Throw system, and 65 operated a flat fee approach. The level of recycling among the first group was 12.1 percent. This was almost double that of the second group’s recycling rate of 6.9 percent. The amount of mixed residual waste generated in the Pay As You Throw areas was on average 240 kg per head annually, compared with 260kg in the areas charging a flat fee.

The researchers believe that a fixed flat fee does not encourage households to separate waste or reduce the volume of mixed residual waste. They believe that although Pay As You Throw models incur a higher initial cost to the authority, they encourage a higher level of separation.

The researchers also conducted a survey among householders in Prague, to assess recycling behavior. 179 households in 17 districts of Prague were surveyed, and of these, 138 households separated their waste. These households also produced significantly less residual waste – 635 liters annually, compared with 712 liters from non-separating households.

Possible factors were identified which influence separating and recycling behavior. These included technical factors such as conditions in the house for waste separation (e.g., the size of the kitchen), social factors such as the availability of information, and political factors, for example, whether the waste management strategy corresponded with national legislation. The most important factors were found to be technical, namely the availability of regularly emptied containers in the community for placing recycled waste and the ease of recycling in the home. Households were less influenced by the cost of the service, as the price paid for waste treatment is relatively low (1.7 Euros per household member per month), and this fee was often hidden in total rent costs.

The level of awareness of methods for separating waste was also important, as was the degree to which the waste management strategy was perceived to be in line with national legislation. The extent to which recycled waste was used as a secondary raw material was also a strong factor.