Newham rubbish at recycling, critics claim

PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 December 2016

Recycling bins (Picture: Steve Parsons/PA)

Recycling bins (Picture: Steve Parsons/PA)

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Newham Council has defended its record after government figures show the borough has the worst recycling rate in the capital.

According to data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs released on Friday, Newham recycled just 14.7 per cent of its rubbish this year.

Responding to the figures, a council spokesman said: “Many of the barriers to recycling are prevalent in Newham, as a densely populated borough, with high levels of diversity, transience and deprivation.

“Many of the borough’s properties are small with an increasing number of flats, which often have limited space for waste storage.

“We also see a high level of contamination where non recyclable waste is put into recycling bins.”

London Assembly Member Caroline Russell called for recycling to be made easier.

She said: “Different boroughs have different recycling systems which is confusing for people moving around London. Standardising this across the city would help Londoners know what they’re supposed to do.”

But Rachel Collinson from the Green Party challenged the council’s performance.

“I’m very sad that Newham’s environment is completely degrading,” she said.

“I’m disappointed, but not surprised. Newham has been bumping along the bottom of these tables for a long time.”

According to Ms Collinson, the problem lies with the council’s 25-year-long contract with the East London Waste Authority (ELWA) which employs Shanks, a waste management company, to process Newham’s rubbish.

She accused the council of failing to tackle Newham’s recycling problems due to the length of ELWA’s contract with Shanks and the flat fee it is paid per month, meaning there is no incentive to increase recyling or encourage innovation in recycling practices through increased competition.

The Green Party believe recycling food and garden waste, instead of burning it, would help Newham get off the bottom of the table, but claim this is impossible under the council’s contract.

But with its own councillors on the ELWA board, the council has the power to influence Shanks and improve the recycling rate, Ms Collinson claimed.

However, according to the council, ELWA’s contract includes a wide range of recycling targets with a levy charged to the boroughs it serves based on the tonnage of waste and recycling collected.

A council spokesman said: “Shanks treats food and non-recyclables in its biological treatment facilities, which means there is no need to collect food waste separately.

“All black bag waste is shredded and dried allowing recyclable material like food and glass to be extracted before the rest of the rubbish is turned into fuels. This means a smaller amount of waste is sent to landfill.”

A Shanks spokesman added: “We work very closely with our customers to ensure we are aligned in our goal to maximise recycling and diversion from landfill.

“The current statistics for Newham’s waste show the amount sent to landfill has fallen dramatically over the last ten years and will continue to do so through a combination of Shanks’ leading waste-to-product and recycling technology and the education programme being led by the council.”

Council figures show that in 2014/15 around 20pc of waste from East London Waste Authority was sent to landfill compared to almost 70pc in 2006/07.

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