Read, M., Gregory, M. and Phillips, P. S. (2009) An evaluation of four key methods for monitoring household waste prevention campaigns in the UK. Resources, Conservation and Recycling.54(1), pp. 9-20. 0921-3449.
Household waste prevention in England has been recognised in national strategy as a key component for future sustainable practice. To support the policy agenda, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in England has funded an extensive programme of fundamental research in the area. The specific research aim reported on here, in this Defra funded project, was to trial and assess methods for monitoring and evaluating approaches detailed in the National Resource and Waste Forum (NRWF)’s Household Waste Prevention Toolkit. The methods that formed the basis for the four research Objectives for the project were: using pilot and control areas (core Objective), tracking waste arisings, measuring specific activities and declared awareness and behaviour surveys. A primary objective of this research was to quantify the direct waste tonnage impacts of implementing a targeted household waste campaign in Dorset County, UK. A key performance indicator chosen for this assessment was the weight of waste collected at the kerbside from households. In an area where a waste prevention campaign is well planned and implemented then reductions in household waste arisings in pilot areas can be in the region of 2% per annum. This method for monitoring can be used, in the hands of an expert project team, to communicate to the public the direct benefits of waste prevention. It was found that there are a wide range of factors that need to be taken into account in the UK, and that these had hitherto been given little prominence, such as careful matching of pilot and control areas – this proved problematical in this research. However, a range of techniques used to support the methods, e.g. doorstepping surveys and focus groups could not show clear attributable waste prevention impacts but their findings could be used to direct new future messages to the public. The most successful and measurable campaign activities that were revealed by evaluation were: mail preference registrations, Home composting and doorstepping. An expert evaluation of all major methods found that no clear preference was revealed as to which were the most useful. None of the methods were judged very poor neither very good, all had major issues about their use. Tracking waste arisings and focus groups were assessed to be the best techniques in terms of input effort to output value. It is likely that waste prevention teams for household waste will need very careful training in the cost-effective use of the NRWF Toolkit before they are competent to apply it to a given place; the issues are more complex than were first thought