London Is Rubbish At Recycling - How's Your Borough Doing?

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 39 months ago

Looks like this article is a bit old. Be aware that information may have changed since it was published.

London Is Rubbish At Recycling - How's Your Borough Doing?
Photo: Sean Batten

London is terrible at recycling. From 2015 to 2016, London's average household waste recycling rate was 32%. That compares rather miserably to the national average of 43%. Not only that, but things are getting worse, not better.

The worst four councils in the nation at recycling are all in London. Time to name and shame: Newham, Westminster, Lewisham and Barking & Dagenham. At the other end of the spectrum is Bexley, leaps and bounds ahead of its closest rivals Bromley. We're not sure how many borough related competitions Bexley wins, so we'll allow it time to gloat in this moment of victory.

Bexley, though, is part of a larger problem — sorry to rain on the parade — as even its strong figures are down on the year before; from 54% to 52% of waste being recycled. Overall, London's average household recycling rate went down for the third year in a row. The average now sits at 32% compared to 34% in 2012/13. This flies in the face — like a non-recycled plastic bag in the wind — of Sadiq Khan's campaign pledge to have London at 65% on average by 2030.

Some generate more waste than others. Photo: Lotte W

This data pre-dates Khan's time in office. He has appointed Shirley Rodrigues as deputy mayor for the environment, so it will be interesting to see how she tackles the problem.

Perhaps a small source of encouragement is that London is no longer alone in its downward spiral. While London's recycling rates have decreased over the past three years, the nation had been improving — up until now that is. Over a year, on average England sunk from 43.7% of household waste being recycled, to 43%.

Photo: Stephanie Sadler

A surprising element of this data is the lack of correlation between the levels of household recycling and non-household recycling. Ealing recycled 43% of its household waste, but a dismal 0.5% of non-household waste. What's more, Ealing produces the second highest volume of non-household waste in London. Ealing businesses sent 42,044 tonnes of rubbish straight to landfill in just one year.

This data does hide certain other facts with a slightly more positive outlook for London's waste future. Tower Hamlets seems to fare bleakly with just 26.7% of its household waste heading for reuse. However, it actually has the lowest rate of household waste generation per person (just 251.3 kg per head, over the course of a year). To help you visualise it, 250kg is roughly the weight of a female polar bear, so it's still a lot. Now visualise polar bears running amok in Tower Hamlets. What a pleasant diversion. Unlike the data below:

Authority Percentage of household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting 2015/16 Percentage of household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting 2014/15 Percentage of non-household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting 2015/16
Newham LB 14.7% 17.2% 17.1%
Westminster City Council 17.3% 19.1% 13.9%
Lewisham LB 18.0% 17.1% 11.0%
Barking and Dagenham LB 18.9% 23.4% 40.7%
Wandsworth LB 21.1% 20.7% 10.2%
Hammersmith and Fulham LB 22.0% 20.7% 2.0%
Camden LB 24.8% 26.3% 19.8%
Hackney LB 24.8% 25.3% 14.6%
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea 25.9% 25.3% 11.1%
Tower Hamlets LB 26.7% 28.1% 11.0%
Redbridge LB 27.7% 28.7% 21.9%
Lambeth LB 28.7% 28.3% 3.1%
Islington LB 29.4% 32.8% 12.2%
City of London 30.8% 34.4% 13.7%
Havering LB 31.8% 32.4% 36.4%
Hounslow LB 33.8% 34.5% 32.3%
Waltham Forest LB 34.6% 35.5% 38.1%
Sutton LB 34.7% 37.6% 36.3%
Greenwich LB 34.8% 34.3% 48.6%
Merton LB 34.8% 37.5% 34.6%
Southwark LB 35.0% 34.6% 39.6%
Brent LB 35.8% 35.2% 1.2%
Enfield LB 35.9% 38.5% 1.3%
Haringey LB 36.2% 37.3% 17.8%
Barnet LB 36.8% 38.0% 23.9%
Croydon LB 37.8% 39.9% 76.5%
Richmond upon Thames LB 40.5% 41.2% 37.2%
Harrow LB 40.9% 45.1% 1.2%
Ealing LB 43.0% 40.1% 0.5%
Hillingdon LB 44.1% 43.8% 10.2%
Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames 45.8% 45.7% 79.5%
Bromley LB 46.3% 48.0% 1.9%
Bexley LB 52.0% 54.0% 29.9%

Last Updated 12 March 2019