Saturday, March 04, 2017

Redbridge Rubbish Part II
– Waste reduction, Recycling & Composting

Following on from Part I, here we will have a look at how Redbridge is doing on waste reduction, (which is the number one priority in the waste hierarchy), on recycling and what the impact might be when the green waste collection service begins again in April with a charge.

So first let’s take look at the headline figures of total household waste, moderated by number of households. Number of Households is much easier to assess as the council issues council tax for each household, but population is much more difficult as there is no way of knowing how many people are living at any one address if they are not on the electoral list.

We can see from the above figures that the number of households is increasing steadily and a slight downward trend in total household waste, but it seems to be on the rise in the most recent years. We are averaging about a tonne of waste per household per year. But I’m quite sure that most readers of this blog are well below that figure, which means there are a lot more “buy to waste” people out there with a much higher figure. There’s a message here that is not getting through, and we will come to the Council Leader’s comments on this shortly.

On to recycling:

Looking at columns 5 & 6 we see a steady improvement in recycling rates from 2002 until 2012. 2002 was when Redbridge entered into a 25-year contract with Shanks and over that period the kerbside recycling scheme was launched, then augmented to a separate box for paper and later including cardboard. The kerbside green waste collection service started in April 2009. Also around 2004/5 there was a major change to the “tip” at Chigwell Road (and the others) transforming it from a rubbish dump into a Recycling and Reclamation Centre. All the white goods, TVs, old Computers, wood, metal, hard plastics, rubble and green waste we residents take there is included in the recycling figure. But since 2012 the percentage of total waste recycled/composted has declined. And if you discount the green waste, which is included in the overall figures, we are averaging about 18%. This is not good at all, in fact it’s pretty bad. When challenged on this at the South Woodford Local Forum by Brian Masden of the Maybank Community Association, the council leader, Jas Athwal, explained that there is “no incentive for the council to encourage waste reduction or recycling due to the nature of the contract with Shanks”. But there is an incentive for Shanks and not least the impact on our environment, including material depletion.

And they have. All the residual household waste, that’s what’s left over after the recycling and composting, and what you might expect goes to landfill, doesn’t, it goes to a BioMRF at Jenkins Lane. Here 90% of the residual waste is reclaimed. Metals, Plastics, organic material, waste to energy blocks. Now, this is not an excuse to stop recycling, because the materials are of a lower quality due to the contamination. So don’t even think about it.

Green waste:

We don’t have any green waste figures for the earlier years but we can conclude that there would have been an impact on the recycling figures when the “tip” was upgraded and they started separating the green waste. There was also a large increase (an additional 5%) in the year that kerbside collection of green waste started, April 2009. The figures for the years we have are quite static – no discernable trend, which indicates that the winter green waste collection had little impact. We wait with interest to see the take up of the new charged summer service, but gossip in the pub suggests it’s not going to be high, partly due to the nature of the bags being supplied not being suitable for “twiggy or thorny” material. Some will, no doubt, revert to “a trip to the tip” and others may be “encouraged” to shred and compost more at home with a Redbridge residents discounted compost bin (link to page), but there is only one way the figures can go from here, and that is downwards.

There is though, another side to this. If all, or a bigger portion, of the green waste currently collected by the council were to be shredded and composted at home, it would mean that the overall total of household waste would also reduce. If the green waste collection service has discouraged residents from home composting that would have the effect of increasing the total household waste figures we see in the chart, so without that those figures might have looked a lot better.

All of which is a bit of a dilemma for Mr Rubbish, the Cabinet Member for the Environment, John Howard, who has been asked to comment.

UPDATE Sunday 5 March: 
John Howard said: "The changes to green waste are projected to only see a small drop in the recycling figure. The recycling rate should be a guide rather than the be all and end all. If people are throwing less away into landfill then it is a good thing.
Saying that throwing rubbish away is an expansive business and we are looking at a range of long term options to help residents reduce their waste".

He also confirmed that there will be no Sunday green waste drop points during the summer but emphasized that residents will still be able to use the "tip" otherwise known as the Recycling and Reclamation Centre.

NOTE (now redundant):
There is some confusion as to whether the Sunday car park green waste bring service will continue during the summer months. We will let you know when we find out, which will probably be the first Sunday in April ...


  1. Any idea what the charge for roadside green waste will be

    1. Minimum of £50 per year, plus 75p if paying by Credit Card.
      Extra bags available at 10 for £10.

  2. I have two compost bins, the only stuff that goes in my 'landfill' bin is meat and fishbones and the kind of plastic that 'can't be recycled', at least not in this borough although other boroughs have different rules. The only green stuff we can't recycle here is hedge clippings and we have a very large hedge. As you know, ordinary refuse bags of the dustbin liner type are useless for hedge clippings so the new service won't work for us. As we are responsible people, we won't go out after dark and put the bags by someone else's house so that the LA will have to send a lorry especially to collect them, as they had to do for an old mattress which somebody kindly dumped in our street, but I bet some people will.

    The green waste collection was successful and popular so of course it had to be tampered with.

    1. Hi Patsy, you need a shredder and a wormery.

    2. Thank you for the suggestion but I don't need a wormery as the compost bins do more or less the same job and are a great deal bigger. A shredder would jut leave me with the problem of disposing of the shredded matter as it is too woody for the compost bins and there is a limit to how much mulch you can use in a suburban garden.

    3. Perhaps Patsy should consider moving to Lincolnshire? The green waste collection uses large puncture-proof wheelie bins which are emptied fortnightly throughout the year and costs £30 pa. You can also buy extra bins which are emptied at an additional cost of £12 pa.