Newham and Tower Hamlets have some of lowest recycling rates in England

PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 January 2020

Bywater's waste recycling plant at Bromley-by-Bow. Picture: LBTH

Bywater's waste recycling plant at Bromley-by-Bow. Picture: LBTH


London will not meet a target to recycle half of all household waste unless significant action is taken to tackle a “postcode lottery” on landfill, campaigners warn.

The capital recorded the lowest home recycling rates in England last year at 33.4 per cent. That was up just 0.3pc on the previous year and 10pc below the national average, according to Department for Environment statistics.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced a strategy in 2018 to achieve a recycling level of 50pc of all council-collected waste by 2030. At the present rate, it would take almost half a century to meet his target, analysis suggests.

The capital's higher population density, particularly the large number of high-rise blocks, put it at a natural disadvantage, campaigners say.

East London boroughs, which contain large numbers of tall buildings and have high populations, sent significantly more household waste to landfill than other areas.

Tower Hamlets, which has more blocks of flats in the pipeline than any other, managed to recycle just 26.4pc of its household waste in 2017/18.

It has set itself the target of recycling 35pc by 2022.

Newham, which has one of the largest populations in London, had the lowest recycling rates in the UK with 87pc of household rubbish being sent to landfill.

Much of the blame for low rates has also been laid on the "confusing" patchwork of capabilities across the city's 32 boroughs, each responsible for their own recycling.

A study by the Green Party revealed none was able to consistently recycle a benchmark list of seven items:

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* crisp packets

* aluminium foil

* black plastic containers

* Biro pens

* Tetra Pak cartons

* broken plastic buckets

* bike tyres.

Barnet, Bexley, Kingston and Waltham Forest topped the list but were still only able to collect five out of the seven. About two million tonnes of waste was incinerated in 2016.

Libby Peake, head of resource policy at the Green Alliance think tank, said: "London is going to have to make a significant jump if it is going to meet its target. There is a real postcode lottery. Different councils have vastly different recycling systems. We need to really simplify the system."

London Assembly member Caroline Russell said: "You can recycle bike tyres in Bexley but not Brent, and Hackney recycles foil but Hammersmith doesn't. The mayor should be asking for the power to take control of London's waste and sort out this rubbish postcode lottery."

A spokesman for Mr Khan said: "Responsibility for waste management in London lies with boroughs and although the mayor has no powers in this area, he believes it is essential that more action is taken to reduce waste and increase recycling."

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