Report: London could reduce waste by 60% through circular model

A new report has claimed that London could reduce its waste by 60% by 2041 through a circular economy approach, in the same week that Google teamed up with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to highlight the business value of circular cities.

New figures published by the London Assembly Environment Committee show that recycling rates in the capital have fallen to 2010 levels. Local authorities collected 3.7 million tonnes of waste last year, according to research, which suggests this level will increase by one million tonnes in 30 years.

The report found that by adopting a circular model for its waste, London could create 12,00 jobs by 2030 and provide £7bn net benefit to the capital’s economy. It would also put London “on track” to become carbon-neutral by 2050.

“The way we deal with waste in London needs to change,” Environment Committee chair Leonie Cooper said. “Recycling rates have fallen, the population continues to grow, and landfill space is quickly running out.

She added: “Where we go from here, however, is crucial. The Mayor needs to take a visible lead in pushing the circular economy forward. This should start with ensuring that organisations in the GLA Group procure goods and services in line with its principles.

“The Mayor should set a whole-city vision which includes specific milestones towards growing the circular economy. Awareness also needs to be vastly improved among London’s businesses and an outreach programme led by the Mayor would address these issues.”

City Hall’s draft London Environment Strategy highlights the need for greater resource efficiency. Meanwhile, a route map launched in June outlined how the collective buying power of the private sector could catalyse the circular economy in London, unlocking £2.8bn annually in the process.

The London Waste and Recycling Board’s (LWARB) 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.

Circular cities

London and other major cities could be uniquely positioned to drive a global transition towards a circular economy in the future, as urbanisation and infrastructure investment lead to a high concentration of resources, capital, data and talent over a small geographic territory.

That was the conclusion of a new paper co-authored by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Google, which explores a vision for the circular economy in an urban context. The report looks at the crucial role of technology in enabling key aspects of the transition towards a circular economy in cities, specifically identifying four key technologies. These include:

  • Asset tagging: Providing information such as the condition and availability of products, components, or materials. For example, prolonging the life cycle of a car by monitoring its usage patterns and condition through sensors can trigger alerts about problems as they appear, to allow for an easy and quick fix.
  • Geo-spatial information: When combined with asset tagging, geo-spatial information can provide visibility on the flow of materials, components, products and people across the city (including patterns of optimal mobility routes, energy demand peaks and valleys, congestion, and waste generation)
  • Big data management: Computation capability allowing overlay of general patterns of human behaviour. For example, predicting energy consumption patterns at a local level, suggesting transport options that avoid peak hour traffic flows in real-time.
  • Connectivity: The widespread and easy access to smartphone and application technology allows for increased connection between people, and between people and products leveraging asset tracking capabilities. This enables circular business models such as leasing and sharing platforms, reverse logistics, take-back systems, and distributed remanufacturing.


George Ogleby

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