Londoners recycle less but new ways to cut waste hold promise

by Adela Suliman | @adela_suliman | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 21 September 2017 18:05 GMT

Domestic waste that has been sorted into plastics, glass, metals and card is left outside to be recycled in London, Britain August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce

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If London adopted so-called "circular model" to cut waste, it could create 12,000 new jobs and provide £7 bln net benefit to city's economy

By Adela Suliman

- Recycling rates in London have dropped to their lowest level since 2010 but innovative new ways to cut waste could rescue the British capital from the trash heap, creating jobs and making billions, according to a report released on Thursday.

In 2016, local authorities in London collected 3.7 million tonnes of waste – enough to fill more than 1,500 Olympic-size swimming pools - as the city's garbage piled up.

But if London adopted a so-called "circular model" to cut waste, it could create 12,000 new jobs, provide a £7 billion net benefit to the city's economy and reduce 60 percent of waste by 2041, the report said.

Under a circular model, rather than simply recycling or incinerating a city's trash, rubbish is re-used and recirculated to extract maximum value, or waste is avoided in the first place. In doing so, carbon emissions fall, while new jobs are created along with economic activity, the report found.

The report - entitled "Waste: The Circular Economy" - was published by the London Assembly's Environment Committee, an elected local government body that holds the mayor to account and examines his policies.

Examples of re-use include redistributing food waste from restaurants and passing on clothes and textiles dumped by stores.

"The way we deal with waste in London needs to change," Leonie Cooper, who chairs the Assembly's Environment Committee, said in a statement. "Recycling rates have fallen, the population continues to grow, and landfill space is quickly running out."

Cooper said the potential for new jobs was enormous and called on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to back the new circular approach to cutting waste.

London's Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that Khan was adopting a "circular approach to the use of resources in London and is committed to helping Londoners waste less and recycle more."

She said London was working towards increasing its recycling rate to 65 percent by 2030.

"Cities are the engine room of the circular economy," said Wayne Hubbard, Chief Operating Officer of the London Waste and Recycling Board, a body that backs the strategy to reuse and recycle London's rubbish.

For the first time ever, more than half of the world's population lives in urban areas, with London's population expected to exceed 11 million by 2050.

"If the mayor can pull it off, it will be a real success," said Angela Francis of charity Green Alliance, who welcomed the report and proposed shift to a circular model.

"By doing this he will help make London's businesses more competitive, not only for the UK market but also for changing global markets."

(Reporting by Adela Suliman; editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

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