Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Lambeth’s recycling spin (or how Lambeth's recycling claims are a load of rubbish)

Lambeth Council appear to be rehashing old news over recycling rates in an apparent attempt to spin a poor recycling performance.

Over the last few years Lambeth's recycling has fallen behind other London boroughs, and the London average. This has been attributed to a lack of political leadership. Lambeth currently lies in 28th place in the capital.

Last year it bowed to pressure and began to take some action. Campaigners pointed out that it would also save significant money if it increased recycling rates, which seems to have been a juicy carrot at a time of cuts.

Lambeth is now trying to claim credit for 'rocketing' recycling rates. Closer inspection reveals a rather different picture.

In a press release in July 2011 Lambeth claimed:

“The council is predicting that thanks to residents’ efforts, £900,000 is set to be saved this year through reduced waste collection and disposal costs, up on the original prediction of £600,000.”

Now, in March 2012 it is saying:

“The council’s target was to save £500,000 in the first year, but thanks to residents that saving has been doubled to over £1 million.”

The original target seems to suddenly have been lowered by £100,000. This is what has changed the projected saving, increasing it by £100,000.

What is even stranger is that the reported saving has gone up, whilst the actual projected amount recycled has gone down.

If Lambeth’s figures are correct, in July 2011 the recycling rate for kerbside properties was up by an average of 4.7% with the council collecting an average of 29 tonnes more recycling each week. But by March 2012 waste crews were actually collecting less - an extra 26 tonnes of recyclable materials (a 4.2% increase).

This all casts serious doubt over the claims Lambeth are making for the year 2011-2012.

But even the suggested increase in the (now lower than first suggested) recycling rate isn't a major achievement.

The reality is that recycling rates are going up across London. An increase in Lambeth should be expected just to keep pace with the general trend across the capital.

What is absolutely clear is that Lambeth recycling rates have not 'rocketed' at all, as is being claimed. The average London borough like Lambeth recycles around 5-600 tonnes of household waste a week. The increase of 26 tonnes – 4.2% a year - may even see Lambeth fall further behind other London boroughs. To get itself back on track - just to a London average - it would need to increase existing recycling by around 100-150 tonnes a week (25%). Even Lambeth's own spun figures suggest this is nowhere near being achieved.

1 comment:

Adrian said...

What would help clarify this is some graphs e.g to show how well Lambeth are doing year on year compared with other inner London boroughs.

By the way the £ saving is from collecting less rubbish for landfill and not directly from collecting more recycling (although there will be a relationship between the two).

Even if Lambeth are selectively overstating their recycling achievement their poster campaign may be sending a positive message to encourage more recyling. So let's not be too churlish.

What is really missing from Lambeth's website is a clear factual analysis of recycling progress over the recent past which should not only compare Lambeth with other boroughs but include figures on Lambeth rubbish and recycling by area showing figures per household/per person plus info on the food waste pilots and the amount of food and compostable waste in landfill rubbish. The greenhouse gas release imlications could be added too.