Enforcement could boost London recycling rates

Enforcement could be one of the keys to improving recycling rates in London but must be accompanied by a campaign to raise public awareness of the changes, council officers have recommended.

Speaking at a conference organised by London Remade examining ways to improve recycling in the capital, waste chiefs from two councils which have introduced compulsory recycling – punishable with fines – said it had resulted in a “step change” in their recycling rates.

John Woodruff, head of waste management at the London Borough of Bromley, and Michael Lai, group manager for waste and sustainability at the London Borough of Barnet said these changes were preceded and accompanied by a publicity blitz.

Both emphasised that fines were seen as a last resort and so far neither borough has needed to impose one, as the threat has so far been enough to persuade residents to recycle.

Bromley’s recycling rate has risen from 27.7% in August 2005 to 35%, while Barnet’s had increased by 28% a year after the compulsory recycling was introduced.

Andrew Baker, waste strategy officer for the London Borough of Harrow, admitted that although his authority had a compulsory scheme, there was no enforcement policy.

He said: “We don’t do any enforcement to tell the truth. We find the word ‘compulsory’ in the literature works.”

Mr Baker told delegates changes to the rubbish collections in Harrow had caused some complaints from the public – resulting in the need for staff training to deal with abuse – and the food and garden waste collections regularly cause controversy in the local press.

He said: “With our organics collection, if there’s a surplus above what the facility will take, it has to go to landfill.

“What we try to say is our problem is success. We are working hard to try to find more capacity.”

His advice to authorities looking to change their waste schemes included keeping it simple, allocating extra resources to deal with queries and complaints, and ensuring councillors are behind the scheme.

Kate Martin

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