London Waste Strategy targets £89m-a-year savings

18 January 2010

London's councils could save £89 million a year by improving the management of the capital's municipal waste and increasing revenue from recycling and waste treatment, according to Mayor Boris Johnson's draft municipal waste strategy published today (January 18).

It is not only detrimental to our environment, but economically a backwards step to be sending our rubbish to landfill and I am writing to all the borough leaders to urge them to pull out the stops to boost our recycling efforts

Mayor Boris Johnson

The document, entitled ‘London's Wasted Resources', covers the full spectrum of waste treatment and recycling initiatives, with particular attention paid to flats recycling, the reuse sector and the development of "cleaner, greener" large-scale waste treatment technologies.

The projected savings outlined in the 174-page Strategy would come from reducing the £600 million it currently costs the London's boroughs each year to manage municipal waste, and would be achieved, in part, by helping boroughs to own or jointly-own waste treatment infrastructure.

Announcing the Strategy, Mayor Johnson said that he wanted it to help unlock the "massive economic potential" for recovering value from waste in the capital and also hoped to make it easier for people to recycle.

He said: "Some of London's boroughs are taking pioneering strides forward to boost their recycling rates, however overall in London we are really lagging behind. It is not only detrimental to our environment, but economically a backwards step to be sending our rubbish to landfill and I am writing to all the borough leaders to urge them to pull out the stops to boost our recycling efforts."

Furthermore, Mayor Johnson said he wants the Strategy - which covers the years 2011 to 2031- to help launch London as a "world leader in waste management" and overhaul its 25% recycling and composting rate to compare more favourably with other large cities.


Mayor Johnson draws attention to the need to develop revenue-sharing arrangements in waste between councils and waste contractors or by a number of London boroughs working together to develop waste infrastructure.

The Strategy explained that most local authorities do not own waste management facilities but, with increases in Landfill Tax until at least 2013, it would make economic sense for this to happen more. This could lead to almost £90 million each year in savings for boroughs based on current gate fees, collection costs and disposal costs.

The Mayor added that, in his role as chairman of the waste funding body, the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWaRB), he would look to help any local authorities keen to develop their own waste management facilities.


The London's Wasted Resource document outlines areas the city will need to focus on to improve its recycling and waste management peformanceThe Strategy indicates that the number of households in London is set to increase by 22% by 2031, and it therefore aims to provide adequate measures for managing the predicted increase in municipal waste.

Particular attention is paid to the issue of flats and estates recycling, which account for almost half of London's housing stock and provide 40% of the municipal waste stream.

The Strategy indicates that "few boroughs have successfully tackled recycling and composting" in these areas and states that the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWaRB), which is chaired by Mayor Johnson, intends to make funding available for a sustainable flats and estates recycling infrastructure to be developed.

Reuse is another area which Mayor Johnson is hoping to foster further development in, aiming to increase the amount of waste reused or repaired from 10,000 tonnes-a-year in 2008 to 40,000 tonnes-a-year in 2012, and reaching 120,000 tonnes-a-year in 2031.

This would be partly achieved by £8.5 million in funding provided by LWaRB between 2009 and 2012 to support reuse infrastructure. As well as working with the London Community Recycling Network and London boroughs to promote reuse and reduction initiatives, such as furniture reuse schemes.

There is, however, little mention for the American rewards-based recycling scheme RecycleBank, which Mayor Johnson has publically backed before (see story). The only reference relates to the Mayor being keen to see a trial of the scheme "during 2010".


Included within the Strategy are long-term targets for recycling in the capital which look to overhaul the city's traditionally low performance. Currently the city produces 3,975,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste each year, with 49% (1,950,000 tonnes) going to landfill.

Under the new plan, London would aim for an overall recycling rate of at least 45% of municipal solid waste by 2015, which would rise to 60% in 2031. This would be coupled with achieving a zero waste to landfill goal by 2025.

According to the Strategy, material not suitable for recycling would be dealt with by the development of "greener, lower carbon" methods of generating energy from waste, such as combined heat and power (CHP), anaerobic digestion, gasification and pyrolysis.

The Strategy highlights that currently 23% of London's municipal waste is sent to "mass burn incineration" for energy recovery and this is expected to rise when the Belvedere facility being constructed by waste management firm Cory Environmental is completed in 2011.

However, it states that the Mayor "does not wish for any further increase" in this technology in the capital but does intend to use energy recovery as an outlet for 30-35% of municipal waste by 2020.


The pledge to support alternative treatment technologies follows on from LWaRB announcing £12 million in guarantee funding for a proposed gasification facility at Dagenham in East London (see story). And, it comes after the London Assembly urged the Mayor to make more use of energy recovered from waste in the city (see story).

Andrew Richmond, policy and programmes manager (waste) at the Greater London Authority, gave an outline of what the three-part strategy would focus on at the event ‘Capital Gains' in December.

Mr Richmond said the Strategy, which would be geared towards turning London into a ‘zero waste city', looked set to help the development of "large sites" with many treatment facilities but not necessarily large scale waste treatment plants (see story).

The document is currently being consulted on by London Assembly and Greater London Authority functional bodies until March 15 2010. A full public consultation is set to take place in summer 2010.


Responding to the Strategy, London Councils, which is an organisation representing the 33 local authorities in the capital, welcomed the proposal and its call for joint-working.

A London Councils spokeswoman said: "London Councils is pleased that the Mayor has recognised the need for collaborative working to tackle municipal waste in the capital. We will be looking closely at the proposals for new waste disposal technologies and in particular ways to ensure effective collection from flats and multi-occupancy buildings.

"London's boroughs are determined to continue improving waste management in the capital, and look forward to the Mayor supporting their efforts."