Improving recycling rates in flats

Project description

This pilot scheme was introduced at six sites across Peterborough (8 flat blocks in total), covering a total of 141 households. Three measures including communications were introduced at each site to address some of the challenges raised in initial focus groups.


This pilot scheme aimed to make recycling and waste management easier for people living in flats. Three interventions were identified to help address the barriers to successful recycling rates amongst flat residents.

Target audience

Residents living in communal flat blocks with shared recycling facilities.


September 2021 to March 2022 (6-month pilot).


Digital, hard copy materials and in-person.

Who was involved in this project?

Lead organisation: PECT.

Organisation contact

[email protected]


  • Project & Marketing Coordinator.
  • 2x Project Coordinator.

Other stakeholders involved

Procured services include printing and professional leaflet dropping services.

Where was the project piloted and why?

Peterborough City. Peterborough is proud to house an energy recovery facility within its city limits, but contamination continues to be a problem. Recyclables enter the general waste streams, and non-recyclables end up in recycling bins.

Conversations with the council and social housing groups identified that information around recycling would be valuable in areas with communal recycling bins, such as flat blocks, as recycling can easily be contaminated at communal sites if not everyone is clear on what can/can’t be recycled.

Why was the project created?

Why we did the project

To examine what measures can influence residents’ recycling behaviour.

Expected value to the circular economy

Increasing awareness and adding value to the CE by influencing resident behaviours through encouraging waste reduction, and the correct reuse and recycling of materials.

How was the project implemented?

Interventions: Through discussions with Peterborough City Council, social housing groups and focus groups with local residents, the project identified three challenges that the pilot could address:

  • low recycling rates within flats as a result of contamination
  • the lack of awareness around hard-to-recycle items and how to dispose of them
  • the lack of awareness around bulky items and how to dispose of them

As a result, three interventions were implemented to test whether they could overcome the challenges identified. These were:

  1. the provision of an indoor recycling bin or bag and communication materials (signage and posters)
  2. information on hard to recyclables and materials to support collection (battery bin sticker and clear bag for textiles collection)
  3. promotion of monthly bulky waste collection services (posters through doors)

Half of the pilot flat blocks received the bins. The other half received the bags. This was to test which was most effective (other influencing factors were acknowledged upon analysis).

Cost and staff resource

  • £420 (inc. VAT) Recycling bins.
  • £731 (inc. VAT) Recycling bags.
  • £744 (inc. VAT) Signage and posts. 
  • £300 (inc. VAT) Bin stickers.
  • £267 (inc. VAT) Poster/ leaflet printing. 
  • £162 (inc. VAT) Battery bin stickers. 
  • £12 (inc. VAT) Clear bags for textiles. 
  • Staff contribution.


Compliance to the funder’s branding guidance to be checked with the lead communications officer at Essex County Council and was compliant with flat management teams and resident flat directors.


Two monitoring methods were identified:

  1. survey: baseline and comparative surveys issued before and after interventions were distributed and used
  2. WRAP’s bulky density and apportionment tool: an assessment tool to measure the amount of contamination in each recycling bin based on a cross-section. A total of 8 recycling analyses were completed over the 6-month duration. Each site was visited between 14:00 and 16:00 on the afternoon before recycling collection



  • 213 residents actively engaged
  • 353 residents passively engaged
  • 60% of households responded to the baseline survey (85 responses)
  • impact per person: Start of pilot 0.97kg recyclable materials – End of pilot 4.15kg recyclable materials (every two weeks)
  • impact total: Start of pilot 0.34T – End of pilot 1.46T
  • 31% Increase in recyclable materials

Lessons learnt

The strengths of the pilot have been:

  • 60% of households responded to the baseline survey (85 responses), in part due to intensive efforts by the BLUEPRINT team (door knocking, reminders through doors)
  • during analysis, the team noticed residents using the bins and bags provided and received positive verbal feedback on the usefulness of information provided

The weaknesses of the pilot have been:

  • the survey comparative survey at the end of the pilot was not as well responded to as the baseline, possibly due to fatigue from residents
  • this pilot sought to address multiple challenges in a short period of time. Due to limited resourcing, it was difficult to monitor the impact of all measures to the same level as the recycling analyses.  If repeated, it would be valuable to streamline the focus to just one or two of the challenges identified

How we could further improve and remove barriers:

  • closer relationship with flat directors: management companies to appoint resident flat directors with key responsibilities around waste management (recycling champion)
  • new residents are less aware of recycling provisions: built-in recycling signage with each flat. New residents must receive recycling guidance/ how-to video upon move in 
  • clear signage on all bins is essential: bins to have recycling logo on them in clear view
  • hard to recycle items are still an issue despite measures: separate bins/designated area for bulky waste and textiles to help residents with no car or unable to pay for collection services
  • language barriers: all recycling communications to be translated where possible and more picture-based communications 


Cost-benefit of the pilot; whether resources and materials allocated would achieve desired results.