Separate collections needed to solve London’s food waste crisis

The London Assembly Environment Committee is urging local authorities in Greater London to implement separate food waste collections regardless of property type to improve the overall recycling rates in the capital

In a new report released on Wednesday – Bag it or Bin it? Managing London’s domestic food waste – the Committe is also calling on London Mayor Boris Johnson to secure Government resources to support existing recycling schemes and expand facilities. 

The report examines how household food waste is managed and explores strategies to make recycling easier and more cost-effective for residents and local authorities. It found that 20% of domestic waste in London is food waste, but only 23 of the 33 London boroughs separate food waste, while 16 do not offer separate food collection for flats.

Counting costs

Environment Committee chair Stephen Knight said: “At 34%, the capital has one of the lowest household recycling rates in England. When we take a closer look at how London’s boroughs are performing we are seeing a concerning lack of consistency, with 10 boroughs still not collecting any household food waste at all.” 

“We realise that cost is a major factor when local authorities’ make recycling choices, but separate food waste collection schemes need not be more expensive. Effective food waste collection will reduce the amount of waste generated in the first place, potentially making the service cost-neutral.”

Currently, only half of London’s households are able to recycle food waste but London’s land fill sites are expected to be full by 2025. The lack of collections is mainly due to cost implications, but well funded and promoted collections could cut the amount of food waste generated, potentially making the service cost-neutral.

Green waste

The Committee calls on Johnson to help secure Government resources for separate collections and to do more to support schemes like the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and Recycle for London. He must also ensure that the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) can continue its programmes to support boroughs in the long-term, the report argues.

In February last year, the LWARB awarded £1.2m in grants to 17 London boroughs to provide new or improved recycling facilities to over one million households, including introducing a new food waste collection service to residents in flats in Brent.

Johnson is also called upon to use his landholdings to enable or provide extra organic waste-disposal facilities in the capital. Half of London’s food waste is currently processed in the city but only one plant provides dedicated organic waste treatment. London will require the capacity to process an additional one million tonnes of food and green waste as it continues to grow. 

The London Plan

Johnson has already targeted food waste in the city with his FoodSave programme, launched in November 2013 to help 200 small and medium sized businesses to recycle more. However in January edie reported that 94% of eligible businesses had turned down the offer of free support. Johnson is urging not just businesses but households too to recycle more and save London £4m in disposal costs.

The London Plan, which is expected to be published in March 2015, sets targets that would see London’s boroughs working towards zero biodegradable and recyclable waste to landfill by 2026, and recycling or composting 50 per cent of London’s municipal waste by 2020.

Bag It or Bin It – Managing London’s Domestic Food Waste

Lucinda Dann

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