London waste authorities will be set minimum recycling standards to meet by 2020, including a requirement for separate food waste collections, under the London Environment Strategy launched by the capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan.
He said the strategy for the first time brought together all aspects of environmental policy, “while taking the most ambitious view of what is possible in the future”.
Khan said London would become a zero-waste city and, by 2026, no biodegradable or recyclable waste would be sent to landfill, while 65% of municipal waste would be recycled.
At present only 41% of the seven million tonnes of waste produced in the capital is recycled, and landfill capacity is set to run out by 2026.
“There is a significant opportunity to reduce London’s waste bill and environmental impact if food waste and single-use packaging were to be cut,” the strategy said.
“Cutting this waste stream by 20% could take about £42m off London’s waste disposal bill.”
But the city faced some formidable barriers to increasing its recycling, the strategy admitted. These included the fact that its 33 waste authorities provide different waste and recycling collection services, which confuse residents as to what could be recycled, particularly if they move between boroughs, and that the prevalence of blocks of flats meant many people had little storage space for recycling.
Although many boroughs provide separate food waste collections, the amount of food waste recycled is “very poor”, the strategy noted, but London’s recycling rate would significantly improve were food to be composted or used to generate energy.
This may prove controversial with Barnet, for example, about to debate ending food waste collections.
The strategy said that where recycling or reuse was not possible, waste would be incinerated for conversion to energy, and that modelling showed no new energy-from-waste capacity would be needed. All London’s incinerators were expected to be ready for heat off-take by 2025.
Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association chief executive Charlotte Morton said: “We are pleased to see Sadiq Khan endorsing separate food waste collections across the capital to allow anaerobic digestion to recycle London’s inedible food waste into renewable heat and power, clean transport fuel and nutrient-rich biofertiliser.”