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Recycling increases during Lambeth pilot programme

Recycling on Lambeth estates

A pilot project looking into ways of increasing recycling in purpose-built flats has found that by adding food waste collections and refreshing and relaunching recycling facilities, housing providers like ourselves can make a huge difference to local recycling rates.

Published: 29/07/2022

Trialled on four of our estates in Lambeth by ReLondon and the London Borough of Lambeth and funded by the Ecosurety Exploration Fund, the project ran over 13 months from February 2021 to March 2022.

Despite the known barriers to recycling on London’s estates, in particular those associated with higher numbers of renters and residents aged between 15 and 34 years old, the results have been transformational.

Across the four estates, there has been an average 152% increase in the recycling rate, rising from 11% to 27%. This was mainly driven by high food waste capture rates, in some cases comparable with those seen in local authority kerbside collections. Capture rates of all other dry materials also increased, helped by engaging with our customers encouraging them to recycle more.

Building on ReLondon's previous research and interventions on London’s estates, these pilots went much further, introducing food waste recycling and regular collections of used clothing by TRAID, and placing bright pink bins for small electrical items, as well as new bins for large cardboard packaging, alongside refreshed recycling and residual waste bins on all four estates.

The food waste service was introduced with new, pedal-operated bins and kitchen caddies; all the waste streams were co-located to make it easier to recycle a range of materials all at once; and residual waste chutes were closed.

All the improvements were based on in-depth customer insights, and were designed to make it easier for residents to recycle; to motivate them to recycle; and to improve their knowledge around what can and cannot be recycled.

James Glass, our Head of Estate Services said: “We are pleased to be working with Lambeth and ReLondon to make recycling easier for our customers, especially on our estates where historically it has proven to be a challenge. We want our customers to live more sustainably, supporting them to become more energy efficient and driving up the recycling of waste. This pilot project has given us some valuable insight into recycling on our estates which we hope will further inform our approach to recycling on more of our estates in the future.”

Wayne Hubbard, CEO of ReLondon, said: “The results of this project are genuinely impressive. The detailed waste composition results conducted before and after the pilots tell a compelling story: the residents on these estates are recycling more, in large part due to being given the opportunity to do so – which shows that Londoners really want to do the right thing and will do so when given the chance.

“The team in Lambeth have modelled what the potential impact is of rolling out these kinds of service improvements across all their estates, and it shows that they could potentially achieve a 5 percentage point increase in the borough-wide recycling rate, taking it up to 41%. So we’re delighted that the council has committed to rolling out the Flats Recycling Package across the borough, starting this year. This is the kind of intervention we need across the whole of London if we’re going to achieve the Mayor of London’s target of recycling 50% of household waste by 2025.”
The project report makes a vital contribution towards helping boroughs achieve the Mayor of London’s targets for 50% of local authority-collected waste to be recycled by 2025; and 50% of household waste by 2030. It offers valuable, practical information to help those who commission, manage and deliver recycling and waste services to design them in a way that encourages residents to recycle more.

The report will be followed by an updated Flats Recycling Package toolkit for local authorities to use as they implement the Government’s collection and packaging reforms. This will be made available beyond Lambeth and London, to local authorities throughout the UK grappling with low recycling rates from flats.

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