Commercial waste volumes ‘to rise by 23%’

Commercial waste volumes in London are predicted to rise by 23% in the current financial year (2021/22) when compared with 2020/21, but will still be significantly lower than levels seen before the Covid-19 pandemic.  

A drop in waste tonnage from the hospitality sector has contributed to the fall (picture: Shutterstock)

The forecasts come from a report published by ReLondon, formerly known as the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB)on 29 April.

It says while businesses have become more resilient to lockdown,  a drop in tonnages from offices and the hospitality sector mean commercial waste volumes in 2021/22 will still be 14% below what they were in 2019/20 

On a positive note, the report says  local authorities have reported commercial waste customer numbers in February 2021, when the UK was in lockdown, to be “very similar” to levels in February 2020 as businesses “adapt” to lockdown.  

However, “some customers which have continued their contracts are requesting less frequent collections whilst they have been temporarily closed”.  


While the report noted there was “limited data” on commercial waste generation, it used a previously developed technique to produce borough-by-borough estimates based on Defra waste data and surveys.

However, this isn’t applicable to 2020/21 directly because it is based on previous year’s tonnage levels, so the report mainly compared 2020/21 with 2019/20.

In this time, the largest decrease in tonnages is expected in the ‘accommodation and food services’ sector, which could see a drop of 119,000 tonnes, a reduction of 22%. 

By waste type, food will see the largest fall at 202,246 tonnes, a decrease of 19%. Paper/cardboard will see the second largest at 133,697 tonnes, an 11% decrease. 

Tonnage drops range from 7% to 23% across the various boroughs. Outer London boroughs are expected to see less of an impact on commercial waste arisings than inner London ones. Except for Camden, all inner London boroughs could see commercial waste tonnages drop by more than 11%. 

ReLondon published the second version of its report on the future impact of Covid-19 on commercial waste in London on 29 April. The report was compiled by environmental consultancy Eunomia. 


Waste volumes fell sharply during the first lockdown announced in March 2020 as people were ordered to stay at home (picture: Shutterstock)

The report says that overall businesses have been more resilient in the third lockdown than in the first two, with many finding ways to operate within government guidelines. However, it suggests there could still be a downturn in commercial waste volumes if there is a substantial increase in unemployment to come, as many predict.

The substantial decrease in food and glass arisings in areas of high business concentration is due to a decline in activity in the hospitality and food sector, the report suggests. 

It says cardboard volumes have fallen from non-essential, in-store retail businesses. However, this has been offset “to some extent” by increased cardboard in the essential retail sector. 

Commercial waste portfolios that service many offices are to see significant changes to commercial waste volumes, the report says, with paper, food and glass expected to have the largest reductions in volume. 

It adds that volumes of PPE will increase across all sectors, though it is believed this will have a minimal impact on overall waste tonnages due to the low weight in comparison to other types of waste. 

Related links

Report – COVID-19 commercial waste adaptation- Phase two (v 2.0, April 2021): Assessment of the future impacts.


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