Tackling London’s waste: new partnership launched to boost recycling in flats

7 February 2018

Resource London and Peabody are working in partnership to examine barriers to recycling in purpose-built flats in dense urban areas and identify solutions to improve recycling rates in the capital.

To inform the project, Resource Futures is collecting data on recycling and gathering insights into the wider environmental, social and community context of recycling on selected estates.

Why target flats?

Purpose-built flats make up 37%[1] of London’s residential accommodation – with flats accounting for up to 80% of households in some boroughs – but on average flat dwellers recycle half as much as those living in houses.

Although London’s recycling rate has actually increased from 32% to 33% over the past year according to figures released by Defra in December, this is against an overall England recycling rate of almost 44%. There is still a lot of work to do, and much of the difference in recycling rates is believed to be down to the number of people living in flats in the capital, where recycling can be more difficult.

Encouraging greater household recycling by flat dwellers is key, in particular because the number of those living in flats in London is on the rise: nearly all new build properties in London are purpose-built flats and by 2030 nearly half (46%) of London households will be purpose-built flats.

Dr Liz Goodwin OBE, Chair at London Waste and Recycling Board, said:  “We are excited to be working with Peabody, their residents and London boroughs to understand some of the complex barriers to improving recycling rates in purpose-built flats in the capital. The outcomes of this project will be used to develop a new approach to providing flats recycling services and inform waste policy.”

The partnership will conduct in-depth research* with residents in flats to understand the barriers to recycling that they face and to ensure that their views and experiences are at the heart of our recommendations for improvements. This is part of a wider piece of work by Resource London to learn more about recycling behaviours in purpose-built flats and deliver practical interventions that make a real difference. Later phases will include trying out different approaches on a number of inner London Peabody estates to see which interventions increase recycling the most.

The focus of the research will be households in inner London boroughs, particularly those where there are large numbers of flats and lower levels of home ownership. It will explore recycling behaviours of residents with researchers spending time in residents’ homes to learn how recycling fits with people’s everyday lives, the practical details of what and when they recycle as well as what motivates them to do it.

Brendan Sarsfield, Chief Executive at Peabody, said:  “This partnership is a great opportunity for us to talk to our residents about recycling services and find some practical solutions for achieving the capital city’s recycling targets. We look forward to collaborating with the team at Resource London as well as the London Boroughs to deliver this important and innovative project.”

London’s Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues, said: “The Mayor is fully committed to helping Londoners increase recycling and has set a target for London to achieve 65 per cent recycling in London by 2030 in his draft London Environment Strategy. This requires a vast improvement in the recycling rate from flats and this project, which was developed with LWARB, has the potential to make a significant difference.”

The results of this initiative could have impacts beyond London as ways of improving recycling in dense urban areas are being looked at across the country.

Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey, said: “Recycling in urban areas is difficult – nowhere more so than London where the borough of Newham has the lowest recycling rate in the country at just 14%. This needs to improve and, having initiated this important research partnership between Resource London and Peabody, I look forward to seeing the results as quickly as possible to understand what more can be done and how government can help.

“As we have set out in our 25 year environment plan we are committed to improve the nation’s recycling rates.”

The partnership will run until 2020 and is part of a wider £1 million programme of work focusing on improving recycling in purpose-built flats. For more information about the programme visit the Resource London website.

[1] GLA projections 2017