The largest single material by weight found in London’s bins is food waste with food encompassing 27% of overall waste collected, according to a new report by ReLondon.
The report, produced in collaboration with Resources Futures, also identified that 19% of the food waste found in London bins was still edible.
ReLondon says the amount of food waste being found in residual bins shows the importance of both waste prevention measures and the introduction of food recycling collections in the remaining London boroughs where it is not available, which will be mandatory from March 2026.
Published today (14 December), the report collected recently available household waste composition data from 22 London boroughs to understand what Londoners put in their bins, how much is being recycled and how it varies across property types.
The report highlighted a “significant gap” in capture rates between kerbside and communal waste collection systems, with 21% of the material that could have been recycled being put in the wrong (residual) bin at kerbside properties compared to 51% of recyclable items from communal properties.
The most commonly found non-target materials in dry recycling were non-recyclable paper, edible food and plastic film.
ReLondon also found plastic film makes up around 7% of London’s residual waste, which equates to 114,000 tonnes of material per year. Paper and cardboard together make up 21% of London’s household waste, with 11% plastic, 10% glass, and 5% nappies and other sanitary waste.
The amount of plastic film found in London’s bins represents a real opportunity for improving recycling rates once collections of those materials are made mandatory from March 2027, ReLondon says.
Based on the current composition and existing services in place for dry mixed recycling, food and garden waste recycling shows 67% of kerbside waste and 62% of communal waste could potentially be recycled. For both kerbside and communal waste, a third of the total waste is dry recyclable materials.
The report incorporates data from 22 of London’s boroughs spanning between 2018-2022 and provides indicative estimates of household waste composition for London, ReLondon says. It also analyses existing data including waste composition from 6,000 households living in flats in the capital.