Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Waste Strategy Unwrapped

This morning the environment committee turned its attention to the mayor's draft strategy for managing London's waste.

Environment policy advisor Isabel Dedring was - as usual - well briefed and committed to cleaning up a city which presents big future challenges. Industrial decline will lead to less waste being produced but the volume of municipal waste will continue to grow. A major target in the new strategy is to reduce the amount of household waste by 10% by 2020, an ambitious aspiration which is to be achieved by providing better information to householders and co-operating with large retailers to cut packaging.

A Varied City

London trails behind other regions in managing its municipal waste, with 49% still going to landfill. Whilst the challenge is greater as no other region is as urbanised as London, the witnesses also felt that some of the boroughs could have done more to encourage recycling. A beacon performer is the London Borough of Bexley - my colleague Gareth Bacon AM is the responsible cabinet member - where officers regard recyclates as valuable materials rather than waste.

In Bexley markets for paper, plastics, tins and glass are exploited to produce a revenue stream for the authority. They believe that they cannot afford not to offer recycling facilities.

Tiny Flats

Elsewhere more densely populated boroughs face the difficulty of encouraging recycling in blocks of flats. Bexley offer their suburban residents two wheelie bins and three different boxes to segregate their waste, but cramped apartments do not provide sufficient space for such luxuries. Residents wouldn't welcome five separate trips down the stairs with their bins when one black bag will suffice. Also the lack of gardens means there is no green waste, so the potential for recycling is lower. The good news is that flat owners tend to create less waste than large households.


For waste that cannot be recycled the traditional options have been landfill or incineration.

Landfill takes place outside London - the one exception being the site at Rainham - and the counties are unhappy about this continuing. A proscriptive landfill tax is going to make itself felt in coming years, providing a financial incentive for boroughs to reduce that 49% figure.

Or Burn?

Incineration has traditionally played a significant role in London's waste disposal. Major incinerators at Edmonton and Lewisham have now been joined by the new plant at Belvedere which was held up by local opposition for many years. Outer London boroughs are no keener on disposing of Inner London's waste than the counties.

Incinerators carry a large capital cost so they need to be large if they are to pay for themselves. This in turn creates a demand that must be fed and perversely discourages attempts to recycle elements of their waste stream. Often the most easily recycled plastics and paper also provide the most calorific energy if incinerated, generating electricity and heat as useful by-products.

The London plants produce electricity but the heat currently goes to waste and the experts wanted to see pipe networks put in place to provide heating for nearby communities. Ultimately the most efficient option was to site incinerators close to major energy users - for example prisons or data centres - to minimise losses incurred in the transmission of heat and power over distances.

Or Something Else?

Much of the new technology for waste disposal is now proven and available. Options such as pyrolysis, gasification and anaerobic digestion take longer than incineration but are more carbon efficient. The time factor means that the plants require higher levels of staffing and labour costs present more of a problem than capital - so high waste streams are not required and recycling is not discouraged.

Isabel explained that the profusion of disposal sites envisaged in the old plan had been reduced and there was no longer an attempt to 'pick winners' from a suite of options that were still evolving. The intention was to use existing waste disposal or transfer sites for new plants rather than seeking permission for new sites. This is good news for householders who are never keen to have their waste handled on their own doorsteps.


wrapping supplies said...

It is a good thing that London city is making much endeavor and good efforts to make a city cleaner and greener. Recycling wastes is an excellent idea which enables them to keep the city clean and sweep away all garbage from the city.

Anonymous said...

That City Hall strategy is somewhat at odds with compulsory purchase at Brent Cross for a new incinerator site (a story which made a whole page in the Evening Standard a few months ago). There would also be a 140-metre high incinerator chimney nearby, next to the North Circular Road. That is higher than the London Eye, and an unwelcome addition to the Finchley and Golders Green skyline for estate agents to point out.

Another incinerator is promised for Friern Barnet, at Pinkham Way, next to the East Coast Main Line railway.

The PR companies don't say "incinerator", but the sites take domestic waste in, and heat, exhaust gases and ash come out, whatever they want to call them.

The land-fill sites in Buckinghamshire were recenty advertising that they had space for 100 years of waste, so we are not running out of space.

Why cannot we reduce packaging by taxing it, double our recycling levels for domestic waste, bio-digest organic matter, and put the rest of the domestic waste in the ground?

Felix said...


Greatings from Germany! I have made an informationpage about an german recycling- and waste- management- idea in german and english language (kryo- recycling). Pleace spread this infomation to all persons, you know, that many people get knowkedge about this idea and good alternatives to incineration.

If you and others have some more or new information, pleace send the information to my adress. .

Here is the link to my informationpage:

With best Greatings, Felix Staratschek, Freiligrathstr. 2, D- 42477 Radevormwald

Anonymous said...

Children should be taught about local recycling policy, so that they can teach / encourage their parents....

Also, kids whould be taught about composting. Perhaps local authorities can run courses for adults.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that concerns about small flats was taken into consideration about difficulty in recycling. Although our flats have lots of wheelies bins, there is not reason that one or two cannot be converned to exclusively for recycling material only. But I agree space inside flats is tight.

I don't have space for a bicycle and the clothes dry in the living room (I could get a dryer not but not very green).