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Mayor could use powers to stop Barnet binning food waste service

London mayor Sadiq Khan has expressed “deep concern” at Barnet council’s proposal to stop its separate household food waste collections, and said he will use his powers to block the move if needed.

As previously reported by MRW, Barnet wants to scrap the collections as one of several measures towards its £1m savings target for its street scene services in 2018/19.

According to the council’s environment committee: “The current additional cost of the separate weekly collections of food waste above that of the recycling collections is £300,000 a year for around 5,000 tonnes of food waste, equating to £60 for each tonne collected.”

Its proposal is for food waste to be put in the residual waste stream, which is treated via energy from waste rather than landfill.

But the move is directly at odds with the London Environment Strategy published by the mayor of London in May. This states that a minimum level of service to households should include ’separate food waste collections, including from flats where practical and cost effective’ by 2025 in order to achieve an overall 50% recycling rate.

When Khan was asked by Caroline Russell, green party member of the London Assembly, to respond to Barnet’s proposal, he said: “I am concerned about the impact on recycling performance from Barnet’s decision to stop separate household food collections.

”I do possess, through the GLA Act, the backstop power to direct authorities, where I consider it necessary, for the purposes of implementing the municipal waste provisions of the London Environment Strategy. 

“Moreover, waste authorities have a duty under that Act to undertake their waste responsibilities in such a way as to be in general conformity with the strategy.

”However, the use of my power of direction is clearly an option of last resort, once all other avenues have been explored and exhausted.”

Khan said he wrote to the leader of Barnet Council in June “expressing my deep concern at their decision and requesting that it is put on hold”. He added: ”This will enable my officers to now start the process required of us under the GLA Act.”

According to the mayor, his London Environment Strategy and its policies and proposals on waste and recycling were developed “following an unprecedented process of evidence gathering, analysis, stakeholder consultation and dialogue”.

Khan said: “Barnet did not respond during the public consultation on the issue of food waste collection, which was included in the waste policies and proposals. The waste policies represent a trajectory that is the best environmental and economic solution for the city and at the borough level.

”Londoners expect and deserve a consistency of service provision across the city. The evidence points to the impacts that food waste collection has on driving higher rates of recycling across the board.”

According to Barnet, despite efforts to promote separate food collections and ongoing communications, uptake from the public was low, with only 25-30% of residents participating on a weekly basis and tonnages static.

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