Resource Use

Project reveals measures to increase recycling in London flats by 26 per cent

Resource London has today (29 January) revealed a list of measures that could increase recycling rates in London flats by 26 per cent through simple solutions such as providing residents with clear information and ensuring that bins are emptied and cleaned regularly.

Claire Shrewsbury, WRAP, James Glass, Head of Estate Services at Peabody, Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment, Rebecca Pow, Minister for Environment, Liz Goodwin, LWARB Chair, Dan Jones, Director of Environment at Tower Hamlets
Claire Shrewsbury, WRAP, James Glass, Head of Estate Services at Peabody, Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment, Rebecca Pow, Minister for Environment, Liz Goodwin, LWARB Chair, Dan Jones, Director of Environment at Tower Hamlets

Resource London, in partnership with Peabody Housing Association and six local authorities, ran a two-year pilot study, which introduced a consistent package of measures, the ‘Flats Recycling Package’, to tenants on 12 Peabody estates across London in a bid to find ways to improve the capital’s flat recycling rates.

Early waste composition analysis, conducted by consultancy Resource Futures, found that recycling rates on the 12 pilot estates (10 per cent) were less than a third of the overall London recycling rate (33 per cent).

The measures included in the package consisted of:

  • Clean well-maintained bins and bin areas
  • Adequate collections and recycling capacity to stop overflows
  • Bins with locked reverse-opening lids
  • Collection of the six main recyclable materials
  • Clear and visible signage on and above the bins
  • Recycling bins conveniently located for residents
  • Recycling leaflet sent to residents once a year
  • Posters highlighting recycling messages displayed in a central location (where possible)
  • Clear information for residents about what they should do with large items like fridges, sofas etc.

In a new report, Resource London  – a partnership between the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) –  has revealed positive results. The project increased capture rates by 22 per cent, from 38.2 per cent to 46.8 per cent, and delivered a 26 per cent increase in recycling rates, from 10.7 per cent to 13.4 per cent, over a nine-month period. The project also resulted in a marked improvement in the contamination rate, which decreased by 24 per cent.

Following the success of the pilot, Resource London is now working with councils and housing associations in London to get the Flats Recycling Package introduced across the city.

Commenting on the findings, Antony Buchan at Resource London, said: “We ran this project quite simply because we need to increase recycling rates in flats. The results speak for themselves: this package of measures improves recycling behaviour. We are working with councils across London now to implement the recommendations. Achieving waste and recycling targets in London means we all have to do our bit; and our findings show that residents are ready and willing to recycle if the conditions are right.”

Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy Shirley Rodrigues commented: “The Mayor and I welcome the recommendations of this report. Immediate action is needed to make it easier for people in flats to recycle, both to hit the Mayor’s targets and to ensure every Londoner can access good recycling services, wherever they live. I’m encouraging all councils to follow these recommendations – particularly those around the measures in the ‘Flats Recycling Package’, which complement the Mayor’s minimum standard for recycling services for every household.”

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow added: “Congratulations to Resource London on this highly successful scheme to help people living in the capital recycle more of their waste. This kind of innovation will help us deliver on the aims of our landmark Resources and Waste Strategy, which sets out how we will go further and faster to reduce, reuse and recycle.

“Our new Environment Bill will also allow us to stipulate the core materials which must be collected for recycling from households, including blocks of flats, such as plastics, glass and paper. “I hope this report can help other local authorities to ramp up the quality and quantity of materials they collect from blocks of purpose-built flats for recycling.”

Holding back London’s recycling rate

With purpose-built flats making up 37 per cent of London’s residential accommodation, the difficulties of recycling in flats have been noted as a key reason behind the capital’s flagging recycling rate – residents in flats produce 50 per cent less recycling than those living in houses, due to issues with bin storage and limited space.

A 2017 report from the London Assembly’s Environment Committee outlined the scale of the challenge, stating that the recycling rate in London’s flats must increase by 40 per cent if the city is to achieve the Mayor of London’s target of a 65 per cent recycling rate by 2030.

Work has been done to address the issue – LWARB invested £1 million in a ‘Flats Taskforce’ in March 2017 in a bid to drive recycling rates in blocks of flats through bespoke interventions.

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