The recycling service in London is not fit for purpose, its recycling rate is poor and opportunities to reduce waste are being missed, according to the London Assembly’s environment committee.
The conclusions are contained in a report, Wasting London’s Future, which pulls together three earlier reports on the circular economy (CE), household recycling and energy-from-waste published since September 2017.
It notes that the mayor, Sadiq Khan, has pledged to increase total recycling in London from 52% to 65% by 2030, and says that would require an increase in household recycling from 33% to 42%. He has also pledged that London should send zero waste to landfill by 2030.
The report adds: “Yet despite attempts to increase them, household recycling rates have remained relatively unchanged for the past five years.”
Overall conclusions include:
- Opportunities to reduce waste are being missed
- Recycling lacks consistency across boroughs, and some flats have no home recycling facilities
- London’s recycling service is not fit for purpose and cities such as Milan puts the capital to shame
- London burns more than half its waste for energy, wasting resources, generating carbon dioxide emissions and contributing to air pollution
Khan is urged to set specific procurement targets and ensure that the London Waste and Recycling Board’s CE route map is adopted.
He is also called on to lobby the Government for greater producer responsibility for packaging and encourage wider partnerships between ’CE operatives’ such as charities and municipal waste services.
Recommendations to boost recycling include giving all flats a common service including food waste collection, setting targets for individual boroughs and considering a harmonised collection regime.
The report also urges more anaerobic digestion facilities, and acknowledges that the frequency of residual waste collections should be reduced.
Leonie Cooper, chair of the environment committee, said: “The mayor now needs to drive forward to make sure London does not remain a city of wasted opportunities. Progress is being made but we need to do a lot more.
“We need to reuse more, including creating new reuse businesses. Household recycling rates need to improve significantly, so we must make it easier and simpler for Londoners to do their bit.
“The CE is key because it will ensure items are reused, new jobs are created and the economy will benefit. The time is ripe for London to get a grip on its waste problem.”
ESA statement by executive director Jacob Hayler:
The report makes some important recommendations that should be taken seriously by the mayor, particularly on waste prevention and recycling. We are pleased to see the committee has joined us in lobbying for increased producer responsibility for packaging in order to reduce plastic waste. This will put the right incentives in place to encourage waste minimisation and high quality recycling.
The report also rightly recognises that the mayor will need to support the construction and use of waste facilities if London is to be self-sufficient in managing its own resources. However, the committee is still sending mixed messages on the role of energy-from-waste (EfW). On the one hand it states it has benefits, but it with the other it points to the environmental and financial costs. These costs however are significantly less that those associated with landfill, which is the alternative for non-recyclable waste.
Moreover, the report fails to put EfW emissions into context, and in the case of NOx makes a false comparison with articulated lorries which are of course restricted in many areas in London. Road traffic in general across the UK emits 45 times more NOx than the UK’s EfW plants. The Committee would do well to contextualise its information better to avoid undermining its own calls for investment in much-needed waste infrastructure.