The Waste not, want not study says that while high-density housing does affect recycling performance, it does not prevent a borough from being able to recycle more. Rather, it points to lack of storage space and difficulty in transporting materials to collection points as being the main problems.

Although the capital has improved recycling performance in recent years, most boroughs fail to meet the average rates achieved across the UK. Recycling rates also vary widely across London with some boroughs achieving rates of more than 40% while others fall below the 2007 target of 20%.

The report also found that the effects of another factor cited as a reason for poor recycling performance – deprivation levels – may have been overstated. Although income levels are important, they are not the overriding factor in determining recycling levels.

Some London boroughs with high levels of deprivation recycle more waste than might be expected, while other more affluent areas achieve lower-than-anticipated recycling rates.

Gareth Bacon, who led the special investigation on behalf of the London Assembly’s Environment Committee, said: “Certain areas of the capital do face specific challenges, such as having lots of flats. However this should not be seen as an excuse for failing to recycle more. Deprivation is not an insurmountable barrier either.”

The report concludes that political leadership is crucial to improving recycling rates and says residents of all types of properties can be motivated to do more if they are told about the financial savings recycling can bring. It recommends that London boroughs publish data about the value of recycling annually.

It currently costs £580m per year to manage London’s waste, of which around £250m goes in landfill costs. It has been estimated that if London recycled 60% of its waste, £63m could be saved each year.

Maxine Perella

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