New project delivers 152% recycling increase in Lambeth flats

ReLondon Lambeth

A pilot project by ReLondon introduced food waste recycling, textiles and small electrical collections alongside refreshed recycling facilities on four Lambeth estates which led to a 152% increase in their average recycling rate, rising from 11% to 27%.

ReLondon published a report on the project, making recycling work for people in flats 2.0, that says it has shown by adding food waste collections and refreshing and relaunching recycling facilities – including new textiles and small electricals collections – councils and housing providers can make a huge difference to local recycling rates.

The purpose of the pilots was to explore new ways of increasing recycling from purpose-built flats.

The residents on these estates are recycling more, in large part due to being given the opportunity to do so.

The pilots, run by ReLondon in partnership with the London Borough of Lambeth and Peabody, and funded by the Ecosurety Exploration Fund and ReLondon, ran over 13 months from February 2021 to March 2022.

ReLondon says the project findings have been welcomed by everyone involved, including residents who have told researchers that they were particularly happy to be able to recycle their food waste.

The organisation says an average 152% increase in the recycling rate was mainly driven by high food waste capture rates, in some cases comparable with those seen in local authority kerbside collections.

Capture rates of all other dry materials also increased, which it says was helped by a series of communications to residents to ‘nudge’ them into thinking about what they could do to recycle more.

It’s particularly encouraging to see that up to 35% of food waste was recycled

The project builds on ReLondon’s previous research and interventions on London’s estates. The latest pilots began with taking a baseline measurement of the amount and composition of recycling and residual waste, and the new services were launched with communications designed to stand out from the background noise of other estate notices, signage, and leaflets.

Operationally, the new food waste service was introduced with pedal-operated bins and kitchen caddies. All the waste streams were co-located, which ReLondon says made it easier to recycle a range of materials all at once, and residual waste chutes were closed.

ReLondon says all the improvements were based on in-depth resident insights and were designed to make it easier for residents to recycle; motivate them to recycle, and to improve their knowledge of what can and cannot be recycled.

Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues, said: “This promising research shows that Londoners living in flats want to recycle more and are willing to do so if they’re provided with more opportunities.

“It’s particularly encouraging to see that up to 35% of food waste was recycled, which has been a long-term challenge in flats, and residents made the most of additional collection services for materials such as small electricals and textiles.

“We welcome the findings from the pilots in Lambeth and will be encouraging boroughs to roll out the updated measures more widely across the capital through their Reduction and Recycling Plans.

“Improving recycling rates in flats is key to achieving the Mayor’s target for 50% of London’s household waste to be recycled by 2030 and supports our wider plans to make London a zero waste, net zero carbon city.”

CEO of ReLondon, Wayne Hubbard, said: “The detailed waste composition results conducted before and after the pilots tell a compelling story: the residents on these estates are recycling more, in large part due to being given the opportunity to do so – which shows that Londoners really want to do the right thing and will do so when given the chance.”

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