Demand for new law to boost borough’s low recycling rate

The amount of household waste recycled in Waltham Forest remains below both the London and national averages
By Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Brown and green bins used by Waltham Forest Council to collect recycling (credit Penny Dampier)
Brown and green bins used by Waltham Forest Council to collect recycling (credit Penny Dampier)

Recycling should be compulsory to stop people putting the wrong waste in black bins, the council’s deputy leader has said – amid continuing low recycling rates in the borough.

Figures released this week from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs show that only 31.9% of waste collected from Waltham Forest households was sent for reuse, recycling or composting in 2020/21. 

Although the borough’s recycling rates rose from 8% in 2000/2001 to a peak of 35% in 2014/15, they have since reduced. Waltham Forest remains below the London average of 33% and the English average of 42.3%.

Waltham Forest Council collected 634.4kg of waste per household in 2021/21 and, according to deputy leader Clyde Loakes, up to 80% of this could be recycled, meaning 49,000 tonnes of waste that should have been recycled was instead incinerated or sent to landfill.

Speaking about the borough’s waste collection at the neighbourhoods scrutiny committee this week, Cllr Loakes said: “We continue to lobby the government to ensure recycling is compulsory.

“I find it quite obscene that recycling is still a voluntary endeavour and that councils have no recourse – people can just go and stick their stuff in the black bin.

“As we know with the new structure we’re building in Edmonton, we’re hoping to get up to 50% recycling in the coming couple of years – that’s a big leap from where we are now – but that is realistically where we need to go.”

In 2020/21, 5,069 tonnes of waste sent to recycling was rejected because it was either not suitable or contaminated by water, dirt or chemicals.

Cllr Loakes added: “A lot of this is about education reinforcing behaviour changes […] contamination [is happening] because people put things like dirty nappies and pizza boxes that are greasy.”

Cllr Loakes also called for deposit return schemes and for regulations to make manufacturers responsible for the type of packaging they use.

Residents can read more about what they can and can’t recycle on Waltham Forest’s website: