New recycling interventions and facilities are being brought in across four south London housing estates, based on comprehensive research on how to boost recycling in purpose-built flats.
The project is a partnership between ReLondon, Ecosurety, Lambeth Council and Peabody. It hopes to significantly increase the capture and quality of dry recycling in four Lambeth estates, with results and learnings set to be shared more widely across the UK.
It has been made possible with funding from the first round of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund that supports projects that can reduce the environmental impact of packaging, batteries and e-waste through innovation or research.
Residents in flats generally recycle less and receive lower levels of service compared to street-level properties. 20% of UK households currently live in flats, rising to up to 80% in some London boroughs, so increasing recycling in flats is vital to ensuring that recycling targets are hit. Finding proven and easily scalable ways to increase recycling in flats is particularly pressing in London and other urban areas.
New interventions to improve recycling
Following extensive research with residents in flats spanning two years, the new interventions in Lambeth are based on common-sense approaches which have been shown to improve recycling rates in flats by a quarter.
With a focus on food waste, dry recycling, small electricals, clothing and shoes, one of the main principles is to co-locate all main bins at the Lambeth flats, making recycling easier and more convenient for residents. Other specific changes include the following:
Each estate will also have a dedicated clear-out day for clothing and shoes, followed by two further pop-up collections.
Each estate will have a donation bank for small electrical appliances in a central location, where residents will be able to recycle items such as toasters and irons.
To raise awareness and encourage action, there will be a communal ‘clear-out day’ followed by two further pop-up collections to support residents.
The estates will all receive a new food waste service which will test two new interventions for the first time.
This includes pedal-operated housing units to help combat the ‘yuck’ factor associated with food waste and to address resident’s potential concerns around COVID-19, plus smaller food waste bins that can be hooked to the inside of kitchen cabinets.
Results shared widely
Purpose-built flats make up 37% of London’s residential accommodation, and nearly all new-build properties in the city are purpose-built flats. By 2030, nearly half of London households are expected to live in flats like these, and yet previous ReLondon analysis showed that recycling rates on 12 pilot estates in London were less than a third of the overall recycling rate in the capital.
The Lambeth project will be evaluated by doing a comprehensive analysis of all waste across each estate before, during and after the project. The results will then be shared more widely with local authorities and housing providers to help scale up simple but effective recycling interventions.
Ecosurety Discovery Manager, Gareth Morton, commented "We are thrilled to support this project, enabling ReLondon to address one of the last great challenges for local authority recycling - improving recycling for residents who do not have access to traditional street-level kerbside services."
"This project is set to uncover much needed insights that will be widely shared in 2022 to improve recycling for the 20% of households in the UK who live in flats."
Crucial that recycling is made easier
Wayne Hubbard, CEO of ReLondon, said “We know that recycling is most effective when residents are motivated, have the right information, and find it easy to recycle – so we’ve ensured that these new interventions are based on these critical factors. If we’re going to meet recycling targets as part of tackling the climate emergency, we urgently need to increase recycling in purpose-built flats – and we’re confident this initiative will help to do just that.”
Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues said "For London to be a zero-waste city and tackle the climate emergency, it’s crucial that recycling is made easier for people living in flats. The Mayor supports boroughs directly and through Relondon to deliver their Reduction and Recycling Plans and achieve their waste targets."
"The flats recycling project is a key part of this, having improved recycling rates where they have been historically very low. The expansion of this excellent work supports residents of Lambeth to recycle even more materials easily and I look forward to seeing even more estates and boroughs come on board.”
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