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What can be done to improve recycling in Wandsworth?

Posted on Aug 31, 2015

In 2013/14 Wandsworth had the third lowest rate of recycling waste in Greater London; the recycling rate dropped from 23.45% to 20.44% in comparison with the previous year.

Nationwide recycling rates seem to have plateaued and there is now little hope that England will meet the EU Waste Framework Target of 50% by 2020.  The overall recycling rate in England was 43.2% in 2012/13 but inner city boroughs like Wandsworth, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets struggle to get above 20%.

The reasons are complex

- a high population turnover in Inner London 

- boroughs, which possibly leads to a lack of householder engagement and understanding

- confusion over recycling systems – there are around 400 different collection and recycling schemes in England – every time you move into a new area, you have to learn a new system

- high density housing in Inner London with little space for recycling facilities

- lack of public confidence about the end destination of rubbish put into recycling bins

- the high proportion of recyclate that is rejected because it is too dirty or is the wrong type (particularly plastic). 

The position is further confused when (as in Wandsworth) the Council has a contract with an incinerator operator. When landfill tax has to be paid there are clear incentives to increase recycling rates, but when a council is contracted to supply a particular volume for incineration (possibly incurring a penalty when the target volume is not achieved), there is little or no incentive to increase the percentage of waste being recycled.

Surely there is no reason why England cannot match the recycling rates of 65% in Germany and 70% in Austria? 

Let me know what you think:

Judith Chegwidden, Chair, Putney Society 

Tags: Recycling-rates-Wandsworth