London must act or be swamped with waste

Existing waste management and recycling facilities are likely to buckle under the strain unless urgent action is taken to overhaul London's infrastructure, key waste professionals from the capital have warned.

This is the message from London Remade following a gathering of movers and shakers from the waste world.

Mary Corin is at the sharp end of recycling in the capital and, as director of recycling for Grosvenor Waste Management, operates one of the largest Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in London.

She told fellow waste professionals there was a real chance that recyclables collected and sorted in the city could end up going to landfill.

“London’s MRFs are running at full capacity,” she said.

“This Easter was the busiest ever. People are recycling, but our MRF is full. If action isn’t taken soon we will have to close our doors to new contracts, so additional recyclable waste could end up going to landfill sites.”

“The capital has been in a state of inertia in terms of planning for new infrastructure. Nimbyism is proving a great influence in stopping and delaying new waste and recycling facilities.

“People need to realise that what we do is manufacturing.”

Jamie Blake, director of resource management at London Remade said the organisation was involved in a number of substantial infrastructure projects in London but even more work was needed.

He said: “London Remade has strategic plans to dramatically develop London’s ability to reprocess and recycle waste.

“We want to develop the next 20 substantial projects enabling the capital to reprocess another 200 million tonnes of waste over the next five years.”

“A Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is no longer an option for local authorities facing tough 2010 targets. The city is interested in investing in waste.

“We’re looking for people to approach us to discuss these projects in more detail with a view to working in partnership. London can’t wait any longer. We need the infrastructure now.”

Steve Lee, chief executive, Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), gave an overview of current waste management practices abroad, saying: “The main barriers for progression are the lack of information, investment, planning, incentives and skills.”

Ros Ward, chair of development plans committee, Association of London Borough Planning Officers, said the capital came with its own unique set of problems when it came to waste management: “The problem in London is the value of land. Owners are always trying to sell to residential building contractors because that is where the money is.”

Discussing some of the types of facilities that London needs, Steve Lee braved the controversial subject of incinerators.

“We are either serious about Energy from Waste (EfW) and climate change, or we’re not,” he said.

“We have to minimise waste, take every resource out of the waste streams and then suck all of the energy out of the residual waste.”

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie