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.