London Lags Behind In Recyling

recycling_041213London is behind many other UK cities when it comes to recycling. Figures from London Councils show that we recycle 30% of our waste, behind Bristol (43%), Manchester (42%), Liverpool (39%), Leeds (36%) and Nottingham (32%).

That figure hides a wide disparity between boroughs. Green Assembly Member Jenny Jones says that while Bexley recycles 54% of its waste (take a bow, Bexley), Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth and Wandsworth have actually slipped back in the amount they recycle — between 5-7% since 2008.

The amount we send to landfill is, in comparison with other major cities, not bad but is still 31%. That’s more than we recycle and London’s landfill capacity is expected to be full by 2025. It also costs the boroughs nearly £87m a year in taxes and gate fees — no wonder we’re shipping paper and plastics off to China. (Hang on, paper and plastics? Can’t we recycle those here?)

We’ve also started incinerating more, from 20% in 2009-10 to 36% in 2011-12 (latest figures). It’s not all waste going literally up in smoke: there are four Energy from Waste facilities around London, with another approved for Sutton.

One of the reasons for London’s low household recycling rate (34% as opposed to the national average 43%) is that many of us live in flats and it is, frankly, a pain in the arse to have a load of different boxes in your kitchen and then lug them all down to the various bins. We also have fewer gardens so we don’t get to boost our recycling rates with composting. But if you’ve ever spent time somewhere like Germany, you’ll know they’ve pretty much cracked the recycling culture and it’s just second nature. London Councils suggests we could be more incentivised if we all recognised that our local councils can make money out of recycling and also if there was more uniformity across different boroughs. We move around more; what you might be able to recycle in your old home may be completely different in your new place and can lead to frustration and disillusionment.

Photo by only lines from the Londonist Flickr pool.

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  • http://gplus.to/casalotti Andrea Casalotti

    “Many of us live in flats and it is, frankly, a pain in the arse to have a load of different boxes in your kitchen and then lug them all down to the various bins. But if you’ve ever spent time somewhere like Germany, you’ll know they’ve pretty much cracked the recycling culture and it’s just second nature. ”

    Another example of #NastyBritain: Many Londoners are too lazy to care. But why is Londonist siding with them?

    • http://londonist.com/ Rachel Holdsworth

      Oh for the love of god, Andrea, we’re not siding with anybody. London Councils are the ones who point out the realities of London’s urban living, and before we can tackle the low recycling rates we have to acknowledge those realities.

    • David

      In my current flat, a conversion from a Victorian pub, Islington provide clear plastic bags for co-mingled recycling as there’s no space to store boxes. Due to our diligence in recycling, for the second half of the week we usually have a bag of recycling on the kitchen floor. Also due to the size of our flat, Islington won’t collect compostable waste as we don’t have the space to store a caddy. The simple fact is that even with the best will in the world, much of London’s housing stock hasn’t been designed with the need to store separated waste in mind.

  • http://gplus.to/casalotti Andrea Casalotti

    Rachel, You did not put the comment in inverted commas, so it was fair to assume that those are your views, especially since you use the word “frankly”.

    David, you fall in the myth of London exceptionalism (“We cannot do this, because London is old, big, a world city, ” or some other bullshit). London is a city like many others in the world. It does something well and many things badly, mostly because of the mental laziness of its citizens.

    • http://londonist.com/ Rachel Holdsworth

      No, I didn’t put it in inverted commas because I trust our readers to be able to see in the context of the full paragraph, or even article, that I think recycling is good. Or be able to handle the dual concept that though somebody may find something a pain in the arse, they still appreciate that it’s worthwhile and do it. The world is a complex place. It’s unhelpful to resort to this reductive #NastyBritain hashtagging.

      • http://gplus.to/casalotti Andrea Casalotti

        I think you are being disingenuous. The article is about London falling behind; one reason may be the size of London flats (even though you don’t put any figures, showing that the average London flat is smaller than, say, one in Hamburg), but the tone, the use of “us” and “frankly” suggests that Londonist supports the view that “it is a pain in the arse to have a load of different boxes in your kitchen and then lug them all down to the various bins”
        I live in a small flat in Islington, and I have three separate containers for recyclable, compostable and general rubbish. I don’t find it a problem. I see it as my civic duty.

        • BethPH

          I think you’re deliberately misinterpreting this article (along with other ones) in order to claim Londonist is supporting things that you have a particular opinion about.

          The point of the article is perfectly clear. You’re a regular reader and know our style so it’s rather disingenuous of you to suddenly claim that our use of ‘we’, ‘us’ etc indicates we’re ‘siding’ with anyone.