Tower Hamlets Council could miss recycling targets, campaigners claim

Rubbish (black) and recycling bins line a street .

Rubbish (black) and recycling bins line a street . - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

Campaigners have warned that the council could fail to meet recycling targets if it doesn’t get more government money.

Recycling collections are delayed

Recycling collections are delayed - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The warnings came after figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) revealed local authorities across London were way off the 50 per cent target set by the European Union for 2020 for turning household rubbish into re-usable materials.

In Tower Hamlets just over 28 per cent of household waste was recycled last year. That compares to 14pc in neighbouring Newham which has the lowest rate in London.

The borough recycling most last year was Bexley on 53pc.

A spokesman for Tower Hamlets confirmed the figure and said a new waste management plan was being put together.

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Ian Pirie of green campaign group Friends of the Earth said one of the things stopping councils meeting the target is the number of people living in flats and tower blocks where recycling facilities aren’t easily available.

The retired University of East London lecturer saluted the work TV presenter David Attenborough did to highlight the danger of plastic waste in the BBC series Blue Planet.

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“He’s done what it would take us 10 years to achieve,” Mr Pirie said.

But he added the priority should be to stop producing so much plastic saying recycling is important but not as much as reducing or reusing products and packaging.

“We buy and waste too much,” he said. “The situation is improving slowly, but the trouble is we tend not to take drastic steps until something dreadful happens. It’s sad but the process of bringing about change is usually slow unless we run into a crisis.”

Ed Tombs - a programme manager at waste prevention organisation the London Community Resource Network - said the supermarket plastic bag charge was better than recycling because it reduced the number wasted.

On recycling, he said: “The challenge in London is to make recycling easier than chucking stuff in the bin.”

He argued more waste would be recycled if each household could put all their rubbish into the same bin for it to be separated out after it has been collected.

Charles Craft of Better Reuse - a company that helps make sure bulky waste is used again rather than thrown away - warned councils won’t meet the EU target.

He said they face an uphill battle with people moving in and out of boroughs making it harder for them to engage with a constantly changing population.

Money was also a big issue.

“How can a council hope to achieve targets when its funding has been cut to ribbons?” he asked.

He explained it was cheaper for councils to send waste to be incinerated or to landfill sites than to recycle it.

“If anyone came up with an innovative idea to recycle 10 years ago they might have got support, but not now,” he said.

He argued instead that with councils strapped for cash manufacturers should be required by law to take responsibility for what happens to products once their disposed of so more get reused or recycled.

London mayor Sadiq Khan announced plans in February a range of measures to tackle the issue including manufacturers trialling coffee cup collection schemes with businesses and shops providing recycling facilities.

City Hall is also considering a plastic bottle deposit return scheme that gives money back for recycling bottles and setting up drinking fountains in busy areas.

The mayor pledged in March to increase average household recycling rates from 33pc to 42pc by 2030. He stated London’s overall recycling rate should increase from 52pc to 65pc by 2030.

Councils could be collecting an extra one million tonnes of waste - equal to 500,000 extra bin lorries of rubbish each year in 30 years’ time, according to the London Assembly.

An Assembly report called on the mayor to lobby the government to make it easier for councils to fine people who fail to follow recycling rules.

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