London pledges to reduce landfill waste by 50 per cent by 2030

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has signed an initiative run by C40, a network of major cities working together to address climate change, called Advancing Towards Zero Waste Declaration, committing the English capital to cut the amount of waste generated by each citizen by 15 per cent by 2030, reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and incineration by 50 per cent and increase the diversion rate to 70 per cent by 2030.

London joins 22 other cities who have pledged to make a change include New York City, San Francisco, Milan, Paris and Sydney. In total, there are 150 million citizens that will be affected by this agreement and assist in accelerating the transition to a zero-waste future, contributing to the disposal of at least 87 million tonnes of waste by 2030.

Ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit, held this year 12-14 September, this is a major step towards achieving the greatest goals of the Paris Agreement and in keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5℃.

The initiative was developed by C40 and the city of San Francisco, in consultation with other C40 cities in the Waste to Resources network, as cities are turning their focus to waste reduction.London pledges to reduce landfill waste by 50 per cent by 2030

The generation of global waste is the fastest growing environmental pollutant, and so action against this can create a greater impact on climate change. To take one example, food scraps sent to landfill decompose into methane, a greenhouse gas, which accounts for 25 per cent of current global warming. Changing solid waste and material management systems have the potential to reduce global greenhouse emissions by up to 20 per cent.

City leaders are taking an ambitious, united stance to reach a zero waste future quickly, committing to measurable and inclusive actions to reduce municipal solid waste generation whilst simultaneously improving material management in their cities. The initiative aims to make urban centres become cleaner, healthier, more resilient and inclusive, while better waste management can create employment and economic opportunities for social entrepreneurs and vulnerable communities.

Many cities are well along the road already; for instance, New York has created the largest organics collection and reuse programme within the US, whilst Milan has reached a 60 percent municipal recycling rate through the active engagement of citizens.

What does the pledge include?

As part of the C40 initiative, signatory cities will implement bold actions, including:

  • Reduce food losses and wasting of food at the retail and consumer levels by decreasing losses along production and supply chains and facilitating surplus food for safe food donation;
  • Implement collection for food scraps and treatment infrastructure that recovers nutrients and energy, contributing to the restoration of carbon storage capacity in soils;
  • Support the implementation of local and regional policies, such as extended producer responsibility and sustainable procurement;
  • To reduce or ban single-use and non-recyclable plastics and other materials, while also improving goods reparability and recyclability;
  • Increase reduction, reuse, recovery and recycling of construction and demolition materials;
  • Increase accessibility, awareness, scale and inclusivity of reduction, reutilization and recycling programmes and policies for all communities and neighbourhoods, offering resources in multiple languages; and
  • Ensure benefits are distributed equitably across the city population.

The signatory cities also pledge to publicly report every two years on the progress they are making towards these goals.

‘Cities must work together’

Since entering City Hall, Khan has seemingly demonstrated great interest in getting the capital’s waste problem under control, stating his aim to make London a zero waste city in his draft Environment Strategy in August last year, before reaffirming that ambition with the release of the final version of the Strategy earlier this year.

Goals and objectives within the strategy include having no biodegradable or recyclable waste sent to landfill by 2026, cutting food waste and associated packaging by 50 per cent per head by 2030 and introducing a 65 per cent municipal waste recycling rate by 2030.

Commenting on the C40 initiative, Khan said: “Earlier this year my Environment Strategy set out bold and ambitious targets for cutting waste in London. That means no biodegradable or recyclable waste sent to landfill by 2026, and cutting food waste and associated packaging by 50 per cent per head by 2030. It also means working hard to reduce single-use plastic bottles and packaging which can end up overflowing our landfills and finding their way into our oceans. Cities around the world must work together if we’re going to make real progress in cutting waste.”

All cities party to the initiative acknowledge the enormity of the task they’ve undertaken. “To deliver on the highest ambition of the Paris Agreement requires urgent transformations of every aspect of modern life, including our consideration about what we throw away,” said Mayor of Paris and C40 Chair, Anne Hidalgo. “With this commitment, cities are getting the job done, inventing the new practices to build better cities for generations to come. One more time, the future is taking place in cities.”

Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, added: "Dramatically reducing waste will help curb carbon emissions while helping us build a fairer, cleaner and more livable city for all New Yorkers. Continuing to pile up more and more garbage in landfills is not sustainable, which is why we’ve created the largest organics collection and reuse program in the country, serving over three million New Yorkers. We’re proud to stand alongside other leading cities worldwide in taking ambitious steps to cut down on waste."

Read more about C40’s Advance Towards Zero Waste Declaration on the C40 website.

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