Government

Challenges of domestic rental sector waste tackled in new guide

Councils seeking to improve waste performance in transient domestic rental sectors need to provide greater communication between themselves, landlords and tenants and encourage clearer definitions of responsibility, according to a guide launched yesterday (16 March).

The guide identifies a number of areas in which London boroughs can work more effectively with tenants and landlords to tackle waste management problems in the domestic rented sector.

Challenges of domestic rental sector waste tackled in new guide
Around 32 per cent of households in London’s private rented sector have moved in the last year, and 70 per cent of renting London residents have lived in their current home for less than two years, according to Greater London Authority statistics.

This large proportion of transience in a city of some 8.6 million residents is a contributor to ‘poor waste management practices’ in the domestic rented sectors, according to research by Resource London, a programme run by the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) to support London boroughs in delivering more consistent and efficient waste and recycling services.

Meetings carried out by the programme with London boroughs found that issues like excess waste, difficulty in containing waste in the bins and areas provided, and high levels of recycling contamination from the rented sector represent a particular barrier to London reinvigorating recycling, an aim of the city’s Mayor Sadiq Khan.

‘The Guide to Improving Waste Management in the Domestic Rented Sector’, which was written by Eunomia Research & Consulting, was commissioned by Resource London and the London Environment Directors’ Network (LEDNET), which shares best practice and develops policy on emerging environmental issues affecting the capital, to identify opportunities for improving waste management practices within the sector.

Research with stakeholders representing councils, tenants, private and social landlords and managing agents for the guidance highlighted a number of key ‘points of failure’ within the generic rental process where problems can originate. Potential problems include: landlord and tenant responsibilities not being clearly defined; bins not being provided to new tenants; and tenants not understanding the waste collection system in their new area.

In 2015, then Resources Minister Rory Stewart described the boundaries between London boroughs as ‘Berlin Walls’ of recycling, with householders crossing frequently between different collection systems.

Although focused on the rental sector within London, the guide’s authors say that many of the issues and interventions it contains are not limited to the capital, or even the rental sector. The guide states: ‘We hope that local authorities and other stakeholders in the sector nationally will find these conclusions of interest and we welcome contact from any organisations with relevant experience or insight that would like to get involved in further work to tackle these typically urban issues.’

Greater communication and definition of responsibilities needed

The guide looks at a number of areas in which councils could address the issue, like communications, collaboration, service provision and tenancy agreements. It suggests that councils should use a number of policies to make improvements to recycling from rented properties in their area, including:

  • incorporating waste management into landlord licensing processes;
  • using tenancy agreements to define responsibility more clearly;
  • developing greater collaboration between council waste services departments that interact directly with tenants and landlords;
  • engaging with users of Airbnb and similar short-term renting services to classify waste from lets; and
  • making targeted communications available to landlords and tenants on responsibilities and how to use the waste services available.

Challenges of domestic rental sector waste tackled in new guide
Commenting on the guide’s recommendations, Sue Harris from LEDNET, said: “Boroughs are working hard with limited resources to keep our streets free from litter and rubbish and improve recycling rates.

“LEDNET members have identified the rented sector as an area where we need to do more work with the relevant stakeholders to help raise the level of engagement with recycling services and reduce rubbish dumping in our streets. With the help of this guide, and by engaging more effectively with tenants, landlords and their agents and their representative bodies, we can tackle these issues which we know are not just restricted to London.”

A project board with representation from the local authority and rental sectors including bodies representing tenants, landlords and their agents, provided input to the development of the guide.

Yvonne Baisden, London Representative for the National Landlords Association, who served on the project board, added: “Responsible landlords have an important part to play in ensuring that waste from rental properties is managed responsibly and the guide contains some useful recommendations as to how councils can work with landlords and tenants to achieve these aims.”

The full ‘Guide to Improving Waste Management in the Domestic Rented Sector’ can be viewed and downloaded from the Resource London website.

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