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Campaigners warn council could miss recycling target

PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 June 2018 | UPDATED: 07:18 15 June 2018

Rubbish (black) and recycling bins line a street .

Rubbish (black) and recycling bins line a street .

PA Archive/Press Association Images

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

Thre days of recycling workshops are taking place in Havering as part of Recycling Week. Photo: Recycling WeekThre days of recycling workshops are taking place in Havering as part of Recycling Week. Photo: Recycling Week

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

In Havering just over 37pc of household waste was recycled last year. That compares well to the 25pc in Barking and Dagenham and 27pc in Redbridge.

The borough recycling most last year was Bexley on 53pc. Newham recycled the least on 14pc.

The East London Waste Authority (ELWA) carries out Havering’s waste disposal.

A council spokesman said: “We are pleased that our performance continues to improve. The 2016/17 figure of 37pc represents an increase of 5.2pc on the previous year.”

He added that the council’s focus was on waste prevention and diversion from landfill. “Last year along with our Waste Disposal Authority partners we diverted 92.5pc of waste from landfill.”

ELWA sets out what the council can collect for recycling. Increased collection costs play “a significant role” in limiting the materials collected from the kerbside, he added.

Ian Pirie of green campaign group Friends of the Earth said one of the things stopping the council 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.

“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.”

The council aims to reduce household waste by six per cent year on year.

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 put rubbish into the same bin for it to be separated out after collection.

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 target.

He said they face an uphill battle with people moving in and out of boroughs making it harder 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 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 a million more tonnes of waste – equal to 500,000 extra bin lorries of rubbish – each year in 30 years, 
according to the London Assembly.

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