London recycling figures spark debate

The release of statistics flagging up London as one of the worst recyclers in the country have led to high profile figures leaping to the capital's defence - and going for the throat.

The Defra figures show that municipal composting and recycling rates in London lag well behind the national average in 2004/05.

At 17.7% the capital’s average is well behind that of England taken as a whole – the country manages 22.9%.

Discussing his desire to see a single waste authority controlling waste management throughout the capital this week London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone laid the blame for the poor performance squarely at the feet of the individual boroughs.

He warned that unless they tidied up their act the worst borough were likely to land tax payers with annual fines of up to £250 million for missing European targets.

But pro-recycling group London Remade countered that Defra’s recycling figures paint a misleading picture of what is really going on at ground level and comparing the capital’s performance with that or rural areas is like comparing apples with oranges.

The group points out that factors relating to population density, waste from high-rise properties and higher costs create more difficult conditions in urban areas which tend to restrain recycling levels.

“London rates above average when compared to other urban areas of the UK,” said a spokesman for the group.

“The average recycling rate of the 36 metropolitan authorities excluding the London boroughs is 15.48%.

“Seven London boroughs feature in the top ten performing metropolitan authorities including the London boroughs of Bexley, Sutton, Hillingdon, Camden, Richmond, Enfield and Bromley.

“Only three out of 33 London boroughs are rated in the bottom ten performing metropolitan authorities.”

Total levels of household waste are increasingly regarded as a key measure of good waste management and London generated the third lowest level of household waste in the country in 2003/4 according to the Defra Municipal Waste Management Survey.

Daniel Silverstone, chief executive of London Remade said: “the London boroughs are working hard to overcome the challenges traditionally faced by urban recycling.

“By comparing our performance with that of other regions with rural areas, recycling in London is being misrepresented.

“As the figures illustrate, London is performing above average and improving in comparison with other cities that face similar issues with their recycling collection schemes, demonstrating that real progress is being made.”

By Sam Bond

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