Recycling rate at lowest for five years

Less than one third of household waste in Waltham Forest is recycled, reports James Cracknell

Recycling bins

The amount of recyclable waste put into brown and green bins in Waltham Forest is less than a third of the total waste collected (credit Penny Dampier)

Recycling rates in Waltham Forest have fallen for a third consecutive year – despite people’s increasing awareness of the damage caused by plastic waste.

New government data shows that less than one third of the waste thrown away by borough households in 2017/18 was recycled. The 32.5% recycling rate for Waltham Forest is below both the average for London (33.1%) and England (43.2%) – and is the lowest recorded locally since 2012/13.

The news coincides with a survey by campaign group London Recycles revealing that nine out of ten Waltham Forest residents are “committed to reducing plastic waste”. Many local businesses have also stepped up to provide more alternatives to plastic packaging, as reported by the Echo last September.

Ali Moore, campaign manager at London Recycles, said: “It’s fantastic to see Waltham Forest’s commitment to reducing plastic waste, but many are missing out on simple, free steps that can be taken at home. With 24% of Waltham Forest residents having checked which plastic items they can recycle, it’s clear we could do more.”

Asked why growing awareness was not leading to higher recycling rates, a London Recycles spokesperson said: “We need greater education for residents on which items of plastic waste can be recycled in their borough, so these good intentions convert to better outcomes for recycling.”

The London Recycles survey also indicated that 48% of Waltham Forest residents regularly carry reusable coffee cups and water bottles to reduce plastic waste, but that at home around a third of people were mistakenly putting recyclable items such as spray cleaner bottles, shampoo bottles, and clear plastic trays in their general waste bins.

At the end of January Waltham Forest Recycling Rewards, a scheme offering recycling  incentives to residents living in flats, was closed.

Councillor Clyde Loakes, council cabinet member for the environment, said: “We are committed to doing all we can to encourage our residents to reduce recycle.

“There are a number of factors that could influence the reduction in recycling rates that we are seeing across the UK. A really good and current example is increased consumer awareness around the harm caused by single-use plastics. This awareness and subsequent market response means fewer items are sold in needless packaging.

“To that end, we have started work in Leytonstone to help support businesses move away from single-use plastics, and we will replicate this across town centres in Waltham Forest.

“Goods are also less likely to be sold in heavy packaging such as glass containers – as recycling rates are calculated by weight this will have a noticeable impact.

“We are continuing to roll out dual waste and recycling bins on our streets across the borough, making it even easier for people to recycle on the go.

“Core to the circular economy is encouraging people to reuse, repair or re-imagine items they may instead throw out. To help we have run repair cafés over the past two years so residents can find ways to repair common appliances and reuse household items. We even have a second-hand store at our Kings Road Recycling Centre in Chingford.”

North London Waste Authority (NLWA), which co-ordinates waste collection from Waltham Forest and six other boroughs, states its aim is for 50% of household waste to be recycled by 2020. Work on a new incinerator in Edmonton is due to begin later this year.

For help and advice about recycling:
Visit recycleforlondon.com