One of the most common issues people raise with me is waste.
Whether that’s litter, or fly-tipping, or bins available for people who live in flats, or bins not being collected at all, or what happens to our waste once it is collected.
So when I saw that a new South London Waste Plan had been drafted, I thought I would read through it to see what improvements they are planning to make.
They – the South London Waste Partnership, or SLWP – say that a new plan is needed from 2021 onwards because, “Neither the adopted Local Plans for Sutton or Croydon include waste policies nor do the emerging Local Plans for Kingston and Merton.”
So in terms of the overall planning for dealing with waste, this is it.
Here’s a quick run-through of what it says about some of the important issues:
- Reducing or clearing litter – nothing
- Reducing or clearing fly-tipping – nothing
- Better bins for people living in flats – nothing
- Improving collection rates – nothing
Basically, the plan says nothing about collecting or clearing rubbish, never mind how to improve it.
So what about processing the waste that is collected?
The new waste plan covers the next 15 years, right through to 2036. The period covered by this plan is significant because all of the councils have declared that we are in a climate emergency and set deadlines for becoming carbon neutral – three of them by 2030 and Kingston by 2038.
Many of us have pointed out that it will be virtually impossible to meet those carbon neutral targets without closing down the waste incinerator at Beddington (or at the very least using it only minimally), which is operated under a £1billion, 25-year contract for the SLWP.
So surely this plan should be setting out the route to significantly reducing waste, increasing re-use and recycling, and eventually closing the incinerator altogether?
Well, the first disappointment is that they are clearly not planning on reducing waste. Instead, the plan assumes that waste is going to increase over the period.
Similarly, while they say that re-use is a good idea, there is nothing in this plan to help increase re-use or set a target for increasing it.
On recycling, they do mention the Mayor of London’s target to increase recycling to 65 per cent by 2030, but they don’t say anything about setting targets in each borough or how they are going to achieve it.
Given the low rate of recycling at the moment – Croydon is the worst-performing of the four SLWP boroughs, recycling no more than 20 per cent of its waste according to their own figures – it is going to take a major change to meet the Mayor’s target. So it seems odd not to provide any details of that in the waste plan.
The chances of meeting the recycling target have been shown to be even more doubtful by a recent investigation by MertonTV that showed that even waste that was collected for recycling still ended up going into the incinerator.
When it comes to reducing the amount of pollution coming out of the incinerator, the waste plan doesn’t even mention the word incinerator. They only mention waste facilities being net-zero if they are talking about new facilities.
But they are not planning any new facilities and we already have an enormous facility belching out tonnes of carbon every day.
A big clue as to why they haven’t said anything about reducing carbon from the incinerator comes from incinerator operators Viridor’s own Carbon Management Plan which states, “The vast majority of the carbon emissions associated with the residual waste contract are… dependent on the composition of the waste that is sent to the facility. As Viridor does not have direct control over this, there are no contractual targets for its reduction.”
In other words, when the boroughs of the South London Waste Partnership set up the contract with Viridor to burn waste, they decided to ignore the climate emergency and didn’t include any targets to cut carbon. If Croydon and the three other councils are serious about living up to their own declarations of a climate emergency, then this has to change. But it doesn’t look like they are planning on doing anything of the sort.
Dealing with waste is one of the few areas that our local elected councillors are supposed to have some influence over. But when you ask them, they say they can’t do anything because it’s all wrapped up in the South London Waste Partnership for all four boroughs.
Abandoning their responsibility is bad enough, but when you see the plan it’s even more shocking. Because overall the new South London Waste Plan is the same old rubbish for the next 15 years.
The plan is subject to examination, but the examiners’ scope to change anything is very limited. But if you do want to comment then you have to send it in by this Friday July 16 – details of how to object and the grounds you can use are available by clicking here.
- Peter Underwood is a member of the Green Party, and was one of their candidates in the London Assembly elections earlier this year
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