Newham council is moving to weekly recycling collections in order to boost its recycling performance, which at 20.3% in 2019/20 is “significantly below national and regional averages”.
At a meeting on 13 April, the council voted to approve changes to increase the frequency of its recycling collections from fortnightly to weekly, as well as increasing the amount of items that can be left at the kerbside.
Under the new system, glass, pots, tubs and trays (PTT), aerosols, and foil paper will now be collected from the kerbside from this month onwards. Previously, only plastic bottles, paper, card and tins and cans were collected.
This new weekly collection service will be implemented in the 2021/22 financial year, with plans to be “monitored in light of Covid-19”.
The London borough ranked the second lowest recycling rate in the country according to Defra’s 2019/20 figures released in March.
James Asser, cabinet member for environment, highways and sustainable transport, spoke at the meeting and described the change as a “key milestone” to tackling the climate emergency.
Mr Asser explained: “The move to a weekly service means that residents will have more space in their bins and be able to recycle as many items as possible, and this will improve our overall rate.”
He added that the current long-standing contract it holds with the East London Waste Authority (ELWA), which is the joint authority covering four east London boroughs, has been “limiting” to the council, as it was originally designed to divert from landfill and agreed “before door-to-door recycling was commonplace”.
However, discussions with ELWA and its contractor Renewi in February confirmed that glass, pots, tubs and trays (PTT), aerosols, and tin foil will now be collected from the kerbside from this month onwards.
Expansions will also be made to the commercial recycling service, so that the recycling service is “more attractive for businesses”.
The council said that the expansion will “bring it in line with other London and national authorities”.
The council also intends to implement a contamination policy, which would see heavily contaminated waste rejected by bin crews.
The council reported that the quality of its existing service, where all recycling is mixed together in one bin is “poor overall”, with 17% of items sorted in 2019/20 being unrecyclable.
A report from the council outlining the changes said: “It is important that we improve the quality of our recycling in Newham as the markets for recycling are volatile and such low levels of quality and high levels of contamination put the council at risk of not being able to dispose of our recycling in future.
“The better quality recycling produced by Newham the more likely there will be a continued market to take it for recycling. Quality is also increasingly important as recycling markets closer to, or within the UK, develop sophisticated treatment processes.”
Between September 2020 and December 2020 a pilot project was carried out with 3000 properties in the borough, which tested the introduction of a weekly recycling service including the expanded items, along with the testing of the newly proposed contamination policy.
During the pilot, contamination dropped by 6%.
A recycling sack service was also piloted, but this proved to be more expensive than the bin service and less popular with residents, and the number of households presenting sacks for recycling was 12% lower compared to bins.
According to the council’s budget framework, a total of £595,000 has been approved to provide the weekly collections.
An increase in the quantity of items recycled does not incur any additional costs.