Twice as much waste should be transported by river, report says

If London's waste authorities do not take more care to safeguard sites situated along the waterfront they could risk losing the option of transporting waste by river altogether.

A report released this week by London Remade has warned that a more integrated approach must be taken towards the capital’s waste management and recycling in order to protect and maintain riparian site used for these purposes.

London Remade confirmed to edie that the issue of transporting waste by river particularly needed to be addressed at this time because the last of the river-side waste management sites is due to close in 2007, which would leave no more riparian outlets for waste movement.

Around 4.4 million tonnes of municipal waste are produced in London every year, the report states, and only 18% of this waste is currently transported by river. This seemingly small percentage saves around 100,000 lorry movements per annum.

With one in ten lorries on European roads estimated to be carrying waste, an increase in the amount of waste transported by river would considerably reduce the environmental impact of waste transportation. It would also contribute towards reducing traffic congestion.

Chairman of London Remade, Colin Roberts, said the report showed the need for a considerable step change in the way that the capital manages and transports its waste and recyclables.

“Increasing the use of the river could have considerable environmental and economic advantages for London,” he stated. “However, an integrated and coordinated approach to the collection, transfer, transport, treatment and disposal of London’s waste is required if this is to be achievable.”

According to the report, a doubling of the number of river-borne waste movements would realistically be possible, but it would require a change to operational practices, as well as a review of planning consents at existing riverside waste management sites.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone stated in the London Plan that he aimed to prioritise the movement of waste by rail or river, and a spokesperson for the Mayor’s office told edie that he is consciously safeguarding the riparian sites in question.

“The Mayor is committed to the use of sustainable modes of transport in waste management, including the use of rail and London’s Rivers and canals. The London Plan safeguards existing waste management facilities, including wharves used in the handling of waste and recycling,” the spokesperson said.

“Mr Livingstone has identified key strategic riverside wharves that should be safeguarded for cargo-handling use, including the movement of waste. Through the exercise of his planning powers, the Mayor is working with London’s Boroughs to ensure sites and waste facilities have the flexibility to transport recyclables by River.”

Although the report supported the Mayor’s proposals, it stated that certain issues still required further investigation, such as how the waste could be economically transported, what interventions the Government should make, and where additional river sites could be located.

The report was funded by the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme.

By Jane Kettle

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