Please help improve waste management and recycling in Greenwich
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We are concerned about waste management in the Borough and the low rate of recycling. We are also concerned about the lack of clarity around what happens to non-recyclable waste such as plastics that leach harmful toxins into the environment, both domestically and overseas. We need to do much better at a local level to reduce the harmful impacts and carbon footprint of our waste.
A number of ideas and recommendations are included in the Developing a Carbon Neutral Plan but to public knowledge the Royal Borough of Greenwich (RBG) has made no concrete commitments to this area.
What we are asking for in this petition:
1. The RBG to commit to developing a dedicated waste management strategy that is underpinned by sustainability principles (i.e. not just considered in a silo as waste reduction). The strategy should include:
o A clear vision, accompanied by operational commitment from RBG on specific, time-bound and measurable waste prevention, reduction and recycling targets.
o Clear operational links outlined for collaboration between the RBG Waste Management and Environment and Sustainability teams.
o Measures for engaging residents to change behaviour and for reducing total waste production in accordance with the waste hierarchy. Positive practice should be reviewed to understand where and what strategies have worked for increasing /facilitating residents’ levels of responsibility towards their own waste.
o Transparent and effective plans for segregating recyclable items and preventing cross contamination prior to collection in different types of households – e.g. blocks of flats as well as houses. The plan will require consideration of e.g. ensuring new builds have separate bin storage for each waste stream, and how residents can deal with recycling in small flats with insufficient space for different bins (see London Recycling in flats toolkit for inspiration).
o Clarity on how the strategy will engage and leverage the support of groups such as the RBG’s Climate Emergency Partnership, to both reduce the burden on the RBG’s resources and to heighten responsibility for waste among long businesses, landlords etc.
o Clarity on how this strategy will meet circular economy aims.
o Finally, the strategy should outline all the positive ways that waste can be used to enhance the environment (e.g. communicating the benefits of RBG food waste going to Envar to make precious compost for local use).
2. RBG to share:
o Its most recent data on the Borough’s recyclable and non-recyclable plastics recycling rates.
o Clarity on what happens to non-recyclable plastics, i.e. where and how are they disposed of?
o Clarity on the actions RBG is currently taking towards reducing a) non-recyclable and b) recyclable plastics consumption among residents in the Borough.
Why does waste and recycling matter?
Greenhouse gases are damaging us and the planet: In 2017 emissions from waste were 20.3 MtCO2e, amounting to 4% of total UK greenhouse gases (GHGs). Key sources of waste emissions are methane emissions from the decomposition of biodegradable waste in landfill sites; emissions produced from treatment of waste water; and from biological treatment, composting and incineration of waste. [Source: UK Net Zero Technical Report]
Processing waste costs money: At a time when the RBG is facing bigger financial challenges due to COVID-19 looking for ways to save money at household and council levels is more important than ever. The UK Net Zero Technical Report states that: “The reduction in avoidable food waste is cost saving to households and firms involved in food production and hospitality. The costs of eliminating bio-degradable waste to landfill and increasing recycling rates are uncertain, but cost-effective at current carbon values. Optimising existing water treatment operations and processes is low-cost. More advanced technological solutions are likely to have higher costs. There are considerable co-benefits of these measures including resource efficiency in land use, manufacturing and hospitality; a reduction in toxins and leachate and improvement in soils and ground water quality; and the production of biogas, compost and digestate for fertiliser use." [bold emphasis added]
How are we doing in Greenwich currently compared to other UK councils and boroughs?
The latest league table data from DEFRA published in 2019 places Greenwich at no. 281 (out of 345) in England with an overall recycling rate of 33.4%, and collected household waste per person of 375kg. This compares to the best performing Council, the East Riding of Yorkshire, at 64.8%, yet with a much higher collected household waste per person of 495.6 kg.
We are encouraged that on average we have a lower household waste per person, but disappointed that of the waste collected such a small percentage is currently being recycled.
To highlight how far we must go in RBG to improve our waste and recycling efforts, we share data received from RBG in 2018 in response to a Freedom of Information request (no. 9608) regarding the rate of recyclable plastics recycling in the Borough. This is what was received from RBG:
Time period: 2015-16
Tons of plastic recycled: 1719 .57
Plastic recycling rate: 4.6%
Time period: 2016-17
Tons of plastic recycled: 942.08
Plastic recycling rate: 2.5%
Time period: 2017-2018 (1st Quarter)
Tons of plastic recycled:457.15
Plastic recycling rate: 4.4%
Call to action: Please consider signing this petition to help us work with the RBG to improve our waste management and recycling rates.
See more background information here on how we're doing at the national and London levels.
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