London urged to address ‘laughable’ recycling rates

The London Assembly has called on Sadiq Khan to take a lead in increasing the capital's recycling rates, as damning figures highlight the sheer scale of the problem.

The Mayor’s environment strategy put forward a vision for 65% of London’s waste to be recycled by 2030. But London’s household recycling rates are among of the worst in the country, and these rates would need jump from 33% to 42% to meet the Mayor’s target.

With a rising population, scarce landfill space and more flats being built, it is feared that the problem is only set to worsen. A new report from London Assembly Environment Committee has called for urgent action to address the issue.

“The recycling rates in London are laughable when compared to other major European cities, so we must take the issue more seriously,” Environment Committee chair Leone Cooper AM said. “A new year is the perfect time to reflect and try to change old habits.”

She added: “The Mayor needs to take a real lead in increasing London’s recycling rates and efforts should be concentrated on getting more flats to increase their recycling levels.”

Flats taskforce

Around 890,000 tonnes of food is thrown away in London homes each year, 540,000 tonnes of which is edible. Measures such as limiting bin size, cutting the amount of general waste collections and introducing fines for households that don’t recycle are all proposed by the London Assembly.

There will need to be a 40% increase in recycling in flats if the Mayor’s recycling target is to be met, it is claimed. The London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) has launched a “flats taskforce” with a specific aim of driving up the recycling performance of Londoners living in blocks of flats.

Commenting on the report, London Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy Shirley Rodrigues said: “The Mayor and I are determined that boroughs raise recycling rates, as we work towards our goal of 65% recycling in London by 2030 and sending zero biodegradable waste to landfill by 2026.”

Estimates suggest that London could reduce its waste by 60% by 2041 through a circular economy approach. LWARB’s circular economy programme is targeting a £50m investment by 2020 to make London a city where businesses utilising closed-loop systems can “flourish”. The route map sketched more than 100 practical actions that can kickstart this transition.

London’s current recycling woes are matched on a national level. Experts have warned that the UK will miss out on its 2020 target for household recycling as the latest figures show that current rates in England have stagnated at under 45%.

George Ogleby

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