Waste management close to crisis in capital, says Mayor

London's Mayor, Ken Livingstone, has said the city's waste management strategy is letting down its residents and the environment and cracks are appearing as plans to dispose of the mountains of rubbish produced by the capital are failing to deliver.

Speaking at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, the Mayor, highlighted London’s waste woes before renewing his call for a Single Waste Authority run from City Hall to oversee all the city’s waste management, rather than leaving the boroughs to sort out their own solutions.

London has waste problems unique in England, with its dense population, a lack of suitable disposal sites both inside the city and outside its boundaries and the difficulty of shipping waste through a congested city.

Mr Livingstone highlighted the fact that although some boroughs are performing well, the city as a whole had propped up the bottom of the national recycling league tables published last week.

After being updated on the situation by Green Party assembly member Jenny Jones, he also expressed concerns about Southwark Council is working on a PFI contract which would see much of the borough’s waste being incinerated at the same time as the West London Waste Authority considers shipping much of its waste to a Grundon-run incinerator in Slough.

While the Government, and much of the waste management industry, seeks to persuade the public that incineration, and energy from waste plants in particular, do not deserve their often-negative image, the Mayor remains convinced there are more practical and environmentally friendly solutions.

“Our current fragmented waste management system in the capital means that authorities continue to take decisions such as these to transport their waste out of London or burn it, which seriously compromises our ability to increase recycling and introduce a 21st Century approach to managing waste,” said Mr Livingstone.

“These two decisions are short sighted and are not in the interests of London as a whole. Jenny Jones has rightly raised the issue that if we include West London Waste Authority’s intention to send its waste to Grundon’s incinerator in Slough, and plans for the proposed incinerator at Belvedere go ahead, London will be set to incinerate 37% of its municipal waste. If this was the case then London would account for nearly half (47%) of all incineration in the country.”

“London is now the worst at recycling in the country and has the worst record on litter. We need one city-wide body to manage London’s waste sustainably, so we don’t dump it outside the city or burn it. David Miliband, the Secretary of State for the Environment, could resolve these problems by unequivocally backing the creation of a single waste authority under the office of the Mayor of London, which would give us a city-wide body similar to the way we deal with transport.”

Sam Bond

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