London’s burning waste problem

15 February 2018

London sets fire to over half its waste.


2 million tonnes of waste were sent to incinerators or Energy from Waste facilities last year - more than doubling in the last decade.


Incineration at an Energy from Waste facility is the main alternative to landfill, as electricity and heat can be generated from the waste.


But levels of incineration show no signs of slowing down in the capital. The cost of incineration is a disincentive and along with export restrictions coming into force from China and the possible impact of Brexit, London needs to carefully consider how it will manage the amount of waste it generates.


As the city strives to be greener and more sustainable, urgent change is needed to stop recyclable and biodegradable material being incinerated.

The London Assembly Environment Committee publishes its report, ‘Waste: Energy from Waste’ today, which examines how the benefits of Energy from Waste can be maximised and the impact on the environment reduced.


The report found:


  • Recyclable materials are unnecessarily going to incineration, including materials, such as plastic, that are potentially hazardous to health when burnt.
  • London sends some of its waste abroad and to other parts of the UK.
  • Energy from Waste plants do not sort recyclable waste as part of the process, as this is seen as the responsibility of residents, businesses and local authorities.
  • Not all boroughs offer separate food waste collections, so food waste is being burnt, rather than going to environmentally friendly processes, such as anaerobic digestion.
  • London needs to reduce the amount of waste being sent for incineration and burn less organic and plastic waste, as well as recyclable materials.


Leonie Cooper AM, Chair of the Environment Committee, said:


“We have got to get a grip on the amount of waste being sent to incineration. Burning recyclable and organic materials is wasteful and potentially harmful and as London is expected to grow, we urgently need to reduce the amount being sent for incineration and to separate out useful materials.


Once these materials are burnt, they are lost forever and can’t be used within a circular economy.


Incineration can no longer be relied upon to manage our waste effectively.


Energy from Waste does have its benefits in generating heat and power, but, along with exporting waste elsewhere and sending waste to landfill, this should really be an option of last resort.”


Notes to editors

  1. Waste: Energy from Waste’ report is attached.
  2. This report completes the Environment Committee’s investigation into waste management. You can read the previous reports: ‘Waste: Household Recycling’ and ‘Waste: The Circular Economy’
  3. Leonie Cooper AM, Chair of the Environment Committee, is available for interview – see contact details below.
  4. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.


For media enquiries, please contact Alison Bell on 020 7983 4228.  For out of hours media enquiries, call 020 7983 4000 and ask for the London Assembly duty press officerNon-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit on 020 7983 4100.

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