Should London adopt a single waste authority

Many believe London needs a single waste authority.
Daniel Silverstone explains why this is a feasible option as the capital's waste situation becomes an ever bigger problem

Waste disposal in the capital is a growing problem. London Remade believes a change in the way waste disposal operations are carried out is a necessity.

In September 2005, the Commission on London Governance submitted a report, Making London Work Better, to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) as part of a review of the mayor’s powers, which considers waste.

The commission, made up of Greater London Authority (GLA) Assembly members and senior Association of London Government (ALG) Councillors, believes that there are strong arguments to consider changes to the current arrangements for waste.

The board of London Remade agrees that a strategic authority to manage London’s waste is the best solution. Strengthening the regional tier for planning and investment for waste disposal and recycling in London will be in the best interests of the capital, its sustainability and the development of markets for recycled products.

London Remade is already working with most of the London boroughs, assisting the way waste is managed across the capital, identifying new opportunities for recycling, and reviewing household recycling collections.

Waste in the capital is not currently managed effectively. We cannot carry on like this if London is to meet its regulatory targets. So, London Remade welcomes the opportunity for change offered by the mayor’s proposals and by the Commission on London Governance. There is a danger, though, that the debate around these proposals will take the focus away from the improvements that London needs in the medium term.

London Remade will focus on the business development opportunities to grow sustainable markets for recycled materials, invest in both green businesses and London’s reprocessing infrastructure.

London Remade particularly supports the mayor’s focus on all waste streams rather than solely concentrating on municipal waste recycling. London Remade is already developing ways to establish more effective markets for semi-processed and recyclable materials. Our priorities are to ensure that, in the long term, London is able to manage and process its own waste, greatly reducing the capital’s reliance on other countries or it going to landfill elsewhere in the UK.

We believe that more effective regional arrangements will accelerate London’s capacity to move from the traditional waste management model – logistics to landfill – to a resource management strategy where all waste streams have economic value, with a strong emphasis on reuse, reprocessing and remanufacture.

As the amount of waste in London escalates, there is a growing need for new infrastructure to deal with it. The current regional planning system for new facilities is not fit for this purpose and London Remade supports the regionalisation of waste planning, and will be putting forward proposals for at least ten facilities to be built in the capital over the medium term.

However, the mayor’s scoping paper underestimates the achievements of many London boroughs and waste disposal authorities. And we can model future arrangements on the best practices in London. London Remade’s independent status and excellent working relationships with the GLA, Defra, LDA, waste authorities, waste companies, banks and developers, enables us to make a creative contribution to debate.

If the mayor gets the green light for a strategic single waste authority, a new body could start operation during 2008. In the meantime, London Remade will continue its work to ensure that London does not step backwards during any transition towards new waste disposal and planning arrangements.

  • Daniel Silverstone is Chief Executive of recycling organisation London Remade

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