Waste and performance

London's 'wasted' opportunity

21 March 2018

The Mayor has pledged to increase London’s recycling rates from 52 per cent to 65 per cent by 2030 and to send zero biodegradable or recyclable waste to landfill by 2026.[2] 

The London Assembly Environment Committee publishes its report, ‘Wasting London’s Future’ today, which examines London’s waste management credentials by looking at the potential of the circular economy, London’s household recycling record and the potential of energy from waste. 

The report found:

  • Opportunities to reduce waste by recovering and re-using valuable materials are being missed. 
  • London’s recycling rate is rubbish – household recycling rates are below the national average and have barely increased over the past five years.
  • Londoners want to recycle and authorities should make it easy for them. Recycling lacks consistency across the different boroughs and some flats have no home recycling facilities whatsoever.
  • London’s recycling service is not fit for purpose and cities like Milan put London’s recycling rates to shame.
  • Separating food waste would help with the production of green gas, helping London meet its energy needs. 
  • London burns over half its waste for energy. Although this reduces reliance on landfill and produces energy and heat, burning wastes valuable resources, generates carbon dioxide emissions and contributes to air pollution.  

The committee makes a series of robust recommendations to improve London’s waste management, suggesting the Mayor should:

  • Keep a close eye on borough recycling rates and, if targets are not met, he should step in when contracts are up for renewal.
  • Explore funding options to implement a consistent recycling service across London including flats.
  • Lobby the Government to make it easier for local authorities to fine serial recycling offenders who fail to comply with recycling regulations. 
  • Set targets to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste sent to landfill and incineration by 2026.
  • Promote the circular economy and lobby the Government to press manufacturers to reduce plastic waste and to include better signage on products. 

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

“London has a waste management problem. But with increased public awareness on waste and recycling, the Mayor now needs to drive forward to make sure London does not remain a city of wasted opportunities.

Progress is being made, but we need to do a lot more. We need to re-use more, including creating new re-use businesses. Household recycling rates need to improve significantly, so we must make it easier and simpler for Londoners to do their bit.

Instead of recycling, sending so much waste to landfill or burning it to create energy, our waste can be managed better - and not even be seen as waste at all. The circular economy is key, as it will ensure items are re-used, new jobs are created and the economy will benefit. The time is ripe for London to get a grip on its waste problem.”

Notes to editors

  1. ‘Wasting London’s Future’ report is attached.
  2. Mayor’s draft London Environment Strategy, page 252. The recycling rates are for all municipal waste. The Mayor’s modelling shows that the recycling rate for household waste will need to rise from 32 per cent to 42 per cent (Draft London Environment Strategy Evidence Base, page 89). 
  3. This report compiles together a series of previous reports on ‘Waste: The Circular Economy’,‘Waste: Household Recycling’ and ‘Waste: Energy from Waste’.
  4. Leonie Cooper AM, Chair of the Environment Committee, is available for interview – see contact details below.
  5. 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 Lisa Lam on 020 7983 4067.  For out of hours media enquiries, call 020 7983 4000 and ask for the London Assembly duty press officer.  Non-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit on 020 7983 4100.

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