Recycling intervention rolled out across Lambeth flats

New recycling interventions and facilities are being brought in across four South London housing estates, based on comprehensive research on how to boost recycling in purpose-built flats. 

The project is a partnership between waste and resource management board ReLondon, producer responsibility compliance scheme Ecosurety, Peabody housing association, and Lambeth Council.

Lambeth CouncilIt hopes to increase the capture and quality of dry recycling in four Lambeth estates, with results and learnings set to be shared and replicated more widely across the UK. 

Residents in flats generally recycle less and receive lower levels of service compared to street-level properties.

A report from ReLondon suggests that recycling rates in London flats come at around 10.7 per cent, which is 50 per cent less than the rates of low rise properties.

It also found a ‘significantly higher’ level of contaminated recycling from flats, with an average contamination rate of 30.7 per cent.

20 per cent of UK households currently live in flats, rising to up to 80 per cent in some London boroughs; so increasing recycling in flats is vital to ensuring that targets are hit.

According to the project plan, methods for increasing recycling in London and other urban areas need to be proven and easily scalable.

With a focus on food waste, dry recycling, small electricals and clothing and shoes over standard mixed recycling, one of the main aims is to co-locate all main bins within the Lambeth flats, making recycling easier and more convenient for residents. 

Other specific changes include the following:

  • The estates will all receive a new food waste service which will test two new interventions for the first time:

- Pedal-operated housing units to help combat the unhygienic association with food waste and to address residents’ potential concerns around Covid-19

- Smaller food waste bins that can be hooked to the inside of kitchen cabinets    

  • Each estate will have a donation bank for small electrical appliances in a central location, where residents will be able to recycle items such as toasters and irons. To raise awareness and encourage action, there will be a communal ‘clear-out day’, followed by two further pop-up collections to support residents.
  • Each estate will also have a dedicated clear-out day for clothing and shoes, followed by two further pop-up collections.  

The Lambeth project will be evaluated by doing a comprehensive analysis of all waste across each estate before, during and after the project.

The results will then be shared more widely with local authorities and housing providers to help scale up recycling interventions. 

The project has been made possible with funding from the Ecosurety Exploration Fund, a £1 million fund set up by Ecosurety to support projects that aim to reduce the environmental impact of packaging, batteries and e-waste through innovation and research.

Wayne Hubbard, CEO of ReLondon, said: “We know that recycling is most effective when residents are motivated, have the right information, and find it easy to recycle – so we’ve ensured that these new interventions are based on these critical factors.

“If we’re going to meet recycling targets as part of tackling the climate emergency, we urgently need to increase recycling in purpose-built flats – and we’re confident this initiative will help to do just that.” 

“Purpose-built flats make up 37 per cent of London’s residential accommodation, and nearly all new-build properties in the city are purpose-built flats.”

“By 2030, nearly half of London households are expected to live in flats like these, and yet previous ReLondon analysis showed that recycling rates on 12  pilot estates in London were less than a third of the overall recycling rate in the capital.” 

Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues said: “For London to be a zero-waste city and tackle the climate emergency, it’s crucial that recycling is made easier for people living in flats.

“The Mayor supports boroughs directly and through ReLondon to deliver their Reduction and Recycling Plans and achieve their waste targets.”

“The flats recycling project is a key part of this, having improved recycling rates where they have been historically very low.”

“The expansion of this excellent work supports residents of Lambeth to recycle even more materials easily and I look forward to seeing even more estates and boroughs come on board.”

Councillor Dr Mahamed Hashi, Cabinet Member for Sustainable Transport, Environment and Clean Air at Lambeth Council, said: “We need swift action to make it easier for people in flats to recycle, and to ensure that every London resident has access to appropriate recycling services, wherever they live.”

“We hope these simple steps introduced in Lambeth will have a significant positive impact – and that we can share the results more widely to help address a UK-wide issue.”

“We want to enable many more local authorities to boost the quality and quantity of materials they collect from purpose-built flats.” 

Gareth Morton, Discovery Manager at Ecosurety said: “We are thrilled to support this project, enabling ReLondon to address one of the last great challenges for local authority recycling - improving recycling for residents who do not have access to traditional street-level kerbside services.

“This project is set to uncover much needed insights that will be widely shared in 2022 to improve recycling for the 20 per cent of households in the UK who live in flats.”