Here, re-elected chair of the North London Waste Authority Cllr Clyde Loakes discusses waste disposal and recycling for Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest, including the redevelopment of the Edmonton Incinerator.

“The planet’s not for profit,” chanted protestors at North London Waste Authority’s recent AGM.

I’ve always believed this too. It’s why I’m happy to be re-elected chair of a public body with a mandate to minimise waste and increase recycling to support the transition to a circular economy as well as dispose of unrecyclable rubbish whilst ensuring council taxpayers get value for money.

Londonenergy, which deals with the day-to-day disposal operations, is 100% owned by NLWA, for the public, ensuring our mandate is carried out.

At NLWA this last year, we’ve innovated and pushed the boundaries to recycle more: 67,000 mattresses in just eight months were recycled and polystyrene is now recycled at our reuse and recycling centres.

But the scale of waste is vast and there many issues created by consumption. Businesses need to stop producing tricky-to-recycle stuff. We need more single-use plastics banned and producers forced to be responsible for the environmental cost of their products – nappies, wet wipes, and carpets for starters.

Yet the government still hasn’t implemented the deposit return scheme and Extended Producer Responsibility – years after they were first discussed.

Some people are against NLWA replacing a 50-year-old energy-from-waste plant with a new facility, which will have the UK’s most advanced anti-pollution tech and be ready for carbon capture. It’s been suggested that it’s better to ship north London’s unrecyclable waste to private contractors to landfill or incinerate with less advanced technology. This would mean a minimum of 30,000 additional truck journeys a year.

Others say we should build a pre-sorting facility to extract plastic from black-bin-bags. We’re not ruling it out, but even the most advanced facilities only take a small percentage of materials out of the waste stream. The best pre-sorting happens when residents separate their recycling and waste themselves. However, we’d still need to get rid of residual waste somehow.

What’s vital is less plastics and food ending up in black-bin-bags.

In Milan where household recycling rates are much higher than London, there are fines for people who don’t recycle properly, among a raft of measures; measures NLWA has consistently called on UK Government to legislate for. We need to make recycling compulsory and failing to recycle as unacceptable as smoking cigarettes.

We urge residents and groups to campaign with us to put waste, recycling, and the circular economy higher on the government’s agenda. That’s how we’ll get the changes we need to truly reduce waste across north London.

Cllr Clyde Loakes (Lab, Leytonstone, Waltham Forest Council) is chair of the North London Waste Authority.

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