New research: Improved recycling rates in London


A new report published today by Resource London shows that actions such as cleaning up dirty, dark bin areas, making sure bins are emptied regularly, and ensuring bins can take a full bag of recyclables, improve recycling behaviour in flats.

  • Pilots run across London have shown that the introduction of a consistent package of measures (the ‘Flats Recycling Package’) helped tenants on 12 Peabody estates to recycle more
  • Over a nine-month intervention period, there was a 22% increase in capture rates (from 38.2% to 46.8%) and a 26% increase in recycling rates (from 10.7% to 13.4%)
  • There was also an improvement in the contamination rate which decreased by 24% (from 30.7% to 23.4%)
  • Resource London is now working with councils and housing associations in London to get the Flats Recycling Package introduced

The project, run in partnership with Peabody and six London local authorities, was set up to tackle low recycling from flats, and found in its early waste composition analysis that recycling rates on the 12 pilot estates were less than a third of the overall London recycling rate (c.10% vs. a London rate of 33%). Flats present a particular challenge in London, as purpose-built flats make up 37% of London’s residential accommodation – and nearly all new-build properties in London are purpose-built flats. By 2030 nearly half (46%) of London households will live in purpose-built flats.

Speaking about the findings, Antony Buchan at Resource London said:

We ran this project quite simply because we need to increase recycling rates in flats. The results speak for themselves: this package of measures improves recycling behaviour. We are working with councils across London now to implement the recommendations. Achieving waste and recycling targets in London means we all have to do our bit; and our findings show that residents are ready and willing to recycle if the conditions are right.

Delivered by Resource London – a partnership between the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) and WRAP – this two-year project is the most comprehensive of its kind. The pilots aimed to better understand the barriers to recycling for people living in purpose-built flats and identify practical solutions that could be rolled out by housing providers, building managers and waste teams.

The project’s own ethnographic research with residents found that those barriers are complex, but that effective recycling is only achieved when residents are motivated to do it, when they understand what they can and can’t recycle, and if it’s made easy for them. So a set of five behavioural interventions to address motivation, understanding and ease were developed and implemented on ten of the twelve estates, in addition to the Flats Recycling Package (which was delivered as a control on all twelve estates).

The Package however had overwhelmingly the biggest impact on capture rates, and the five behavioural interventions simply enhanced those results in different ways, on different estates.