Resource Use

What’s holding back recycling in London’s flats?

Overcoming barriers to recycling in flats in London is set to be the subject of a new partnership between Resource London and Peabody Housing Association in a bid to improve the capital’s flagging recycling rates.

Despite London’s recycling rate having crept up from 32 per cent to 33 per cent over the past year, according to figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released in December, it is still some way short of the overall England recycling rate of 44 per cent, and is even further behind the Mayor’s recycling rate for London by 2030 of 65 per cent.

Flats are a particular source of difficulty for recycling in London, with 37 per cent of the capital’s homes being purpose-built flats, which produce 50 per cent less recycling than those living in houses. The situation only looks set to become more troubling, as 46 per cent of London households are expected to be flats by 2030, while 88 per cent of new homes built between 2017 and 2039 will be flats.

Thus, encouraging greater recycling by flat dwellers is key, as pointed out by the London Assembly’s Environment Committee back in December. Moves have already been made to investigate how to increase recycling in flats, with the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) - who run Resource London - announcing the creation of a ‘Flats Taskforce’ to help flat-dwelling Londoners to recycle more.

The new partnership will run until 2020 and is part of a wider £1-million programme of work focusing on increasing recycling in flats. The partnership will conduct in-depth research with residents in flats to understand what prevents them recycling and to ensure their their thoughts and experiences are at the heart of any recommendations for developing a strategy to improve flat recycling. Later phases of the partnership will see interventions developed by Resource London trialled in inner city Peabody housing estates.

Speaking on behalf of the Mayor of London, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues, said: “The Mayor is fully committed to helping Londoners increase recycling and has set a target for London to achieve 65 per cent recycling in London by 2030 in his draft London Environment Strategy. This requires a vast improvement in the recycling rate from flats and this project, which was developed with LWARB, has the potential to make a significant difference.”

The research will focus on households in inner London boroughs where the percentage of flats is high and there are lower levels of home ownership. It will explore recycling behaviours of residents with researchers spending time in residents’ homes to learn how recycling fits with people’s everyday lives, the practical details of what and when they recycle as well as what motivates them to do it.

L-R: LWARB Chair Dr Liz Goodwin OBE; Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey and Peabody Commercial Director John Spillett
Urban recycling 'needs to improve'

Commenting on the announcement of the new partnership, Dr Liz Goodwin OBE, Chair at London Waste and Recycling Board, said: “We are excited to be working with Peabody, their residents and London boroughs to understand some of the complex barriers to improving recycling rates in purpose-built flats in the capital. The outcomes of this project will be used to develop a new approach to providing flats recycling services and inform waste policy.”

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey, who recently said that the UK Government was “straining every sinew” to reach the 2020 EU recycling target of 50 per cent, said: “Recycling in urban areas is difficult – nowhere more so than London where the borough of Newham has the lowest recycling rate in the country at just 14 per cent. This needs to improve and, having initiated this important research partnership between Resource London and Peabody, I look forward to seeing the results as quickly as possible to understand what more can be done and how government can help.

“As we have set out in our 25 year Environment Plan we are committed to improve the nation’s recycling rates.”

Related Articles