Lewisham Council must do more to improve its ‘”poor” recycling rates, which are among the lowest in England, according to the union representing many local government workers.
Speaking to Eastlondonlines, GMB National Officer Justin Bowden said that although there has been a steady improvement in recycling across London boroughs in the last decade, recycling measures in Lewisham leave plenty of room for improvement.
Bowden said that Lewisham could learn from other councils, saying the borough should “draw on the expertise of other local authorities which have achieved, in some cases in London, [recycling rates] as high as 50 per cent”.
According to a report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), only 17.1 per cent of Lewisham residents’ household waste is being recycled.
This currently puts the borough in the bottom three councils for recycling in England. The other two are Newham, with 17.2 per cent of waste being recycled and the Isles of Scilly with 14.1 per cent.
By contrast, 73 councils in England have already met or exceeded the 2020 European recycling target of 50 per cent. None of the top ten are in London, where on average only around 35 per cent of waste is currently being recycled.
Interview with Justin Bowden, GMB Trade Union National Officer. Video: Simisola Jasmine Jolaoso
The GMB, which includes refuse workers in its membership, is pushing for more money to be spent on recycling. Bowden said: “Increased recycling has come at a cost. The waste sector is the most dangerous in the country to work in. More investment in vehicles and equipment and safer methods of working are needed to keep those providing these vital service safe.”
Adam Thomas, Conservative London Assembly candidate for Greenwich and Lewisham, described Lewisham’s recycling figures as “deeply worrying”.
He said: “These figures confirm our concerns about the mountain that Lewisham Council now has to climb to prevent the borough’s residents seeing the council having to pay significant fines because its recycling levels are so low – money that could be spent on our local communities.”
Lewisham Councillor Rachel Onikosi defended the council’s recycling efforts.
She told Eastlondonlines: “Recycling is very important, last year we collected nearly 19,000 tonnes of recyclable material from the kerbside. However, we are determined to improve our recycling performance by exploring the feasibility of garden and food waste collections from households in Lewisham.”
Some boroughs are taking measures to improve recycling. Lambeth council is giving 2,000 homes green bins as part of a two-month trial in a bid to make it easier for them to recycle waste, while Tower Hamlets council launched an advertising campaign to educate residents so they can recycle more effectively.