Figures released by Defra show that while recycling rates are creeping up in the capital, the improvement is slower than anywhere else in the country.

Between 2006 and 2007 the city cut waste being sent to landfill by 81,000 tonnes, or 11%, while for the country as a whole that rate was 15%.

In the north east, the fastest improving region, that rate was 23%.

Most of the gain in London was, according to Mayor Ken Livingstone, made from increasing reliance on incineration and not improving recycling rates.

“These latest Defra figures confirm once again that London is lagging behind the UK in waste management,” said Mr Livingstone.

“London now incinerates more waste than it recycles, which is simply contributing to the problem of climate change, rather than dealing with waste in sustainable ways.

“Other parts of the country are improving their recycling rates at a faster rate whilst London continues to burn and bury its waste at an unacceptably high level. The current system for waste management is simply not delivering the pace of change that is required.

“In London we face huge fines from the European Commission if action is not taken to reduce the amount of waste currently being sent to landfill. These figures may suggest a reduction in waste going to landfill but I believe we are sending far too much of our rubbish to landfill sites outside of London, with the Home Counties bearing the brunt.

“Defra seems to be turning a blind eye to the mismanagement of London’s waste and London taxpayers will be left footing the bill.

“As a major world city we need to manage our waste in a sustainable way. The current arrangements for managing waste in London clearly aren’t working. They aren’t delivering my own policies; and they aren’t addressing the new EU policies and penalties.”

Waste management is handled by the city’s individual boroughs rather than by City Hall.

Mr Livingstone argues for greater central control to tackle the problem in a co-ordinated fashion, while the boroughs claim a one-size-fits-all approach would be unworkable.

Sam Bond

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