Recycling vehicle in north London
Published date: 7 July 2021

Government Plans for Consistent Waste Collections – Listen to Local Authorities, says NLWA

The North London Waste Authority (NLWA) has responded to the Government’s recent consultation on introducing consistent arrangements for waste collections in England.

NLWA has long made clear that, while the Authority and its seven constituent boroughs are promoting communications and initiatives to reduce waste and increase recycling, local action needs to be supported by national policies and interventions that promote the circular economy. For example, individual local authorities cannot transform the behaviours of the manufacturing and packaging sectors.  And it is only through Government action that our local authorities can be given the powers they need to make recycling compulsory. Therefore, it is welcome that the Government has consulted on measures which are intended to increase the recycling from households and businesses. 

NLWA Chair, Cllr Clyde Loakes, said: “We welcome Defra’s attention to the circular economy agenda which we have been promoting for many years. We are pleased to able to respond to a consultation which invites views on measures to improve the collection and processing of recyclable materials generated by households and business.  The Government must listen to local authorities who have the detailed knowledge of the areas they serve to deliver reforms successfully.  This is a crucial agenda.  

If the Government is serious about increasing recycling, it will also respond to the consultation by accepting our proposal that local authorities should have powers to ensure compulsory recycling by households and businesses.

In its response to the Defra consultation on consistency in household and business recycling in England, NLWA highlighted the following points: 

  • The Government has indicated that it will provide funding to fully cover capital, transition, and new burden costs. This guarantee must be based on the actual costs incurred by local councils, so that council taxpayers’ interests are properly protected. Costs for services in north London are affected by specific needs such as high proportions of properties with communal waste facilities.
  • It is very welcome that Government is proposing new materials should be included in dry mixed recycling collections.  To make a success of this the Government needs to take an active role in developing markets for these recycled materials, especially to create UK reprocessing opportunities.  This would be in line with NLWA’s drive which is already resulting in 100% of its plastic and metal recycling being undertaken in the UK.
  • The Authority does not agree with Government proposals to require different recycling material to be collected in different bins. A single bin has significant advantages, particularly in an urban environment. It is easy for residents to understand, cost-effective, requires fewer containers, avoids health and safety issues, protects the street scene from spillage and unsightly bags and boxes. The Government proposes separating materials would increase quality and income.  However, in NLWA’s case where we largely operate in a ‘co- mingled’ collection environment, we are already successfully separating and selling recyclables at market rate. 
  • The Authority supports the argument for increasing collections of separate food waste.  However, this needs to be balanced with practical considerations, especially for estates and flats above shops. The government’s impact assessment does not adequately reflect the additional cost of collecting food waste from these property types or the additional education/outreach and additional infrastructure that will be required. Food waste collections should only be implemented for estate and flats above shops after local technical, economic, and environmental analyses are done.
  • The Authority urges that the Government allows the decision to charge for green waste collection, and how much, to be taken locally to take account of local factors and additional cost (for example, Ultra Low Emission Zone and congestion charges). The Government argues that making garden waste collections free will automatically increase recycling tonnages. However, there is evidence that in north London – where garden waste makes up a much smaller proportion of overall tonnage than in much of England – green waste volumes collected have increased since residents using the garden waste service were asked to pay for the extra service which they receive, and which many residents simply don’t need.

NLWA’s call follows its submission to Defra’s Consistency in Household and Business Recycling in England, which closed on 4 July 2021. View NLWA's full submission.