Greenwich Council bins
Collecting recycling from flats is a challenge

The Greenwich Council cabinet member in charge of its bin collections said last night that it was “imperative” that the borough dramatically increases its recycling rate to over 50%.

Cabinet members backed launching a consultation into proposals which could see Greenwich cut its general waste collections from weekly to fortnightly – in line with most other councils – to encourage recycling. It also proposes charging for collecting garden waste, as neighbouring Lewisham and Bexley already do.

Greenwich currently recycles 35% of its rubbish, incinerating most of the rest. Bexley is London’s top borough for recycling with 52%, while Newham is the worst with just 14%. Lewisham is third worst, on 22%. London mayor Sadiq Khan has set a target across the capital of 50% by 2025 – up from just 33% now.

At present, Greenwich collects recycling from blue-topped bins, garden and food waste from green-topped bins and general waste from black-topped bins every week. The consultation, to begin in the new year, proposes reducing the collection of black-topped bins to once a fortnight.

While Greenwich has been proud of its system, which it introduced 11 years ago, David Gardner, the cabinet member for public realm, told last night’s cabinet meeting it was important to get recycling rates up.

“All we are doing here is starting a consultation,” he said. “But it is absolutely imperative, even more so in the climate emergency, that we meet that 50% target and try to surpass it. We very much need to see this in that context.”

Council leader Danny Thorpe referred to the difficulties of collecting recycling from flats – especially as most of the new homes being built in the borough are flats.

“This is a really good opportunity for us to engage with the wider community. I’m really proud of the service that we run, and we know that they are under pressure. And we know that from the initial comments online, there are very mixed views in relation to how we collect things,” he said.

“As the only member of the cabinet who resides in a flat, I still don’t have the three bins, so we’ve got to have a real strategy for how we deal with waste in the borough with increasingly flatted development.”

Figures given to councillors last night showed that, on average, each household in Greenwich borough disposed of 1.02 tonnes of general waste last year – the same as eight years before, a figure put down to the large number of new flats in the borough and the difficulty in collecting recycling from them.

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