Residents in Croydon, or Sutton and the other boroughs in the South London Waste Partnership who endure having Veolia as their councils’ rubbish contractor, might be forgiven for having allowed Global Recycling Day, which was yesterday, apparently, to have passed them by unnoticed.
After all, the four London boroughs in the SLWP have locked themselves in to a £1billion, 25-year deal with Viridor to burn ever more rubbish at the Beddington incinerator, something which is unlikely to do much to improve recycling rates.
How this squares with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s pledge in the capital’s environment strategy to increase recycling rates in the city to 65 per cent by 2030 is hard to fathom.
The London Assembly environment committee report says 42 per cent of household waste must be recycled in order to achieve the Mayor’s total recycling target.
European targets are aiming on meeting recycling targets for municipal waste of 55 per cent by 2025 and 65 per cent by 2035.
This compares to a target of 50 per cent by 2020 that the government and local authorities are working on.
According to government figures from DEFRA, the environment department, Croydon managed to recycle just 38 per cent of its waste in 2017-2018, ranking our borough 116th of more than 300 local authorities in England. Croydon residents each sent 358kg of rubbish to the tip in the year. For every household with three people or more living there, that works out at more than 1ton of rubbish produced from every Croydon home in a year.
Sutton has a better recycling rate across the borough, at 50 per cent, though residents there also generated 350kg of waste each. Of the other SLWP boroughs, Kingston recycled 48 per cent, while Merton was even worse than Croydon, at 37 per cent.
The figures also relate to the year before the revised contract with Veolia was rolled out across the four SLWP boroughs.
Given the considerable and obvious difficulties Veolia has had in managing its work, and therefore properly handling waste sorted by households for recycling, DEFRA’s figures for 2018, when made available, should be worth a look. As should the comparative figures once Viridor finally completes the long-delayed commissioning process on its Beddington incinerator and it becomes fully operational.
How the SLWP boroughs cope with the increased recycling targets set by Mayor Khan will be a challenge, especially for Labour-run boroughs Merton and Croydon.
The London Assembly environment committee has made a series of recommendations to improve London’s waste management, including that the Mayor should:
- Aim for a consistent recycling service
- Introduce penalty fines for serial recycling offenders
- Set targets to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste sent to landfill and incineration by 2026
- Put more onus on manufacturers to reduce plastic waste and to include better signage on products
Ultimately, households need to reduce their waste and prevent the need for recycling in the first place.
“The latest recycling rate data from DEFRA highlights an alarmingly growing gap between the recycling collection rates and waste collected,” said Matthew Ball, the managing director of Greenredeem.
Greenredeem is a British-based company which has been working with borough councils, including Lambeth in south London, to offer rewards to residents for recycling and other green activities. They have also worked with national-scale businesses including Marks and Spencer, Haven Holidays and Cineworld and many more. Their “From Cup to Compost” campaign with Unilever and PG Tips encourages people to compost or recycle their tea bags
“While local authorities have been under incredible financial challenges in the last eight to 10 years, it is possible to increase the amount that’s recycled, and reduce the amount of waste that is sent for disposal,” Ball said.
“Engaging with residents, understanding their motivations and rewarding them for doing the right thing is at the heart of the Greenredeem ethos.”
In Ealing, where Greenredeem has been working with the council, the borough’s recycling rate is above 50 per cent, while the amount of waste sent for disposal is one of the lowest across the capital.
But the London-wide situation is that we are, as a city, producing ever more waste. For more, click here.
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