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Open Forum questions and answers

Answers to some of the questions from the Open Forum on 26 October 2020.

Last updated: 8 February 2021

Questions on recycling and waste

Q. Alex, Julie and Theresa - When will food waste collection, which reduces waste and carbon emissions, be introduced across Westminster, as it already has been in many other London boroughs?

A. WCC has been running a food waste trial for just over a year (launched in November 2019), providing at least a weekly food waste recycling collection service for around 7.5k households.

  • food waste collected is sent to an anaerobic digestion plant in Hertfordshire
  • the plant uses the food waste collected to produce biogas (used to generate electricity and heat) and biofertiliser which is used on local farmland
  • to date over the trial has recycled around 290 tonnes of food waste

Further information can be found on the food waste recycling page.

The council is committed to providing food waste collections to all properties and is currently deciding the best way to collect as much food as possible. 

WCC previously provided a garden waste service to around 10k households. However, this service ceased in 2010 due to low rates of participation. Fewer than 10 per cent of properties in Westminster have a garden and many of these no longer have green areas so the amount of garden waste produced in Westminster is small. From 2023 garden waste collections will be mandatory so the council will be reintroducing a service, this is being planned now.

Q. Gigi and Joana - Can you assure us that when we recycle the items are recycled and not just incinerated or shipped to less prosperous nations?

A. More than 90 per cent of the items collected by the council are recycled within the UK. 

Mixed recycling collected in Westminster is sent to Southwark’s Integrated Materials Waste Management Facility where the materials are sorted into different material streams.

The end destinations for the materials vary according to market conditions, but typically is recycled in UK/Europe:

  • mixed paper and cardboard is processed in Kent
  • glass is processed in Greenwich/ Merseyside
  • plastics in Essex
  • steel cans - Deptford and global markets
  • aluminium cans- the Netherlands
  • food waste- Hertfordshire

Further details can be found our recycling pages.

Q. David - What are your plans to introduce innovative charges and business rates on the gig economy businesses operating in Westminster that currently don't pay even pay for the rubbish they leave on our streets, for example online retailers such as Amazon?

A. Producers of packaging contribute to the cost of collecting and recycling/disposing of their packaging waste (Packaging Waste Regulations 1997) but the current system in place only results in about 20 per cent of the costs being covered.
We are very pleased that a new system is being introduced across the UK in the next couple of years to increase this to 100 per cent which will benefit the council and enable more recycling.

Q. Damien - Please can we have separate communal bins for different recycling materials? We have main bins and one for cardboard, but if we had additional bins for glass, metal and plastics then the main bins could be used just for kitchen and garden waste.

A. Depending on the external space in the block of flats or on-street it might be possible to have separate bins for glass, metal and plastics. However, it depends on the local conditions of the site. For example, if the bins will collect enough materials separately. 

There are no plans currently to introduce garden waste bins for properties with communal bins.

Q. Alison - How do you expect residents to change their behaviour towards recycling when they have to constantly report rubbish left out on our street?

A. There are no reasonable excuses for residents to fly-tip waste. We are aware that this is an issue in some parts of the City, and we are currently looking at further ways to make it easier for residents to recycle and to properly dispose of bulky items.

Q. Gigi - Would you consider setting up a composting scheme to recycle the daily waste from Church Street Market

A. A plan is in place to separately collect and compost food waste as part of the Church Street Estate Regeneration project.

Q. Matteo and Sarah - What are the council's plans to start recycling film and single use plastics like carrier bags and crisp bags? Right now, these are not recyclable and given the tons of consumption of those in a city like London, this is a key priority.

A. Reducing the use of packaging and products such as crisp packets, single use film and carrier bags is the first step.

These types of packaging and products are expensive to recycle and are energy intensive to recycle, and additionally there are not reliable recycling markets for these items. There are no plans currently for WCC to collect these items to recycle as part of a kerbside/ communal recycling bin collection service.

However, Terracycle do operate recycling schemes for hard-to-recycle items. Church Street Library is taking part in this scheme and currently accepts the following items to be recycled:

  • empty crisp packets (popcorn bags are not accepted)
  • pringle tubes (no other tubes are accepted)
  • plastic bread bags
  • empty and clean pet food pouches, dry pet food packaging and pet treat packaging
  • any baby food pouch packaging- cleaned and drained
  • pens/ felt tip pens
  • biscuit packaging from dry biscuits (these have a white lining)
  • cheese wrapping
  • baby wipe packaging, face wipes packets, cleaning wipes packaging, hand soap pumps, trigger bottle sprays, washing pod/dish washer tablet plastic packaging (not tubs)

Q. Maximilian - What are the plans to focus business on waste segregation in particular food waste disposal?

A. The council already has a food waste collection service for businesses and is keen to encourage more businesses to participate.

Q. Nick - Pubs and bars are still putting bottles with general refuse. How can they be encouraged to recycle e.g. can financial incentives be offered?

A. The council does offer financial incentives for businesses to recycle but unfortunately many businesses use private companies to collect their waste rather than the council service.

Q. Paul - What is the council actively doing to stop littering and fly tipping across the city? There are lots of earning signs about not dropping litter but nothing seems to be done.

A. Our city is the heart of the capital serving up to 1 million residents, workers and visitors every day, and with the largest concentration of businesses in the UK we produce and remove around 180,000 tonnes of waste each year.  

Litter and waste not correctly disposed of and left on our streets affects how places look and are perceived, how happy and safe people feel in an area, and how attractive it is to those that live, work and visit our city. It can also have significant and dangerous impacts for our community. Enforcement is used to encourage people to comply with their responsibilities and holds those that deliberately spoil the environment to account.  

Fly tipping is a serious criminal offence which carries an unlimited fine. Offenders can be sent to prison. If the fly tipping involves dumping waste from vehicles, the person controlling the vehicle can be prosecuted.

Between the 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020, the council officers addressed:

  • fly-tipping offences - 1,679
  • waste interventions – 1,315

The council has:

  • carried out a review of our Waste Enforcement Policy and a new policy has been published. It is available on our website
  • the council has issued a notice under s.47 of the Environmental Protection Act outlining our regulations for presenting waste, in Westminster. This is on our website and copies are being forwarded to businesses listed as paying business rates

In terms of enforcement, City Inspectors are the council’s authorised officers, delegated to carry out waste enforcement.

All enforcement is undertaken in compliance with the Regulators Code. Enforcement consists of:

  • educating businesses and residents. This is done both verbally and in writing
  • litter signage is displayed in some areas where there is a high occurrence of littering or fly-tipping to warn offenders
  • waste patrols are undertaken day and night. These patrols are directed based on statistics identifying hotspots
  • fixed Penalty Notices are issued for offences where the offender is identified
  • serious cases of fly-tipping or cases involving clinical waste, result in a prosecution

A digital platform for enforcing waste offences is being adopted which will improve the delivery of this service.

Q. Samantha - Will there be more emphasis on ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’ instead of just ‘recycle’?

A. Reduction and re-use are the top priorities in the ‘waste hierarchy’ and the council has lobbied Government to put more onus on packaging manufacturers to use fewer resources and design packaging that can be easily recycled.

Q. Sarah - What is Westminster doing about recycling, and stopping the use of the plastic bags in shops? How about introducing biodegradable bags?

A. From April 2021 in England the plastic carrier bag charge will increase to 10p and be extended to all retailers. Trading Standards will be responsible for enforcing this. A mandatory change to all plastic bags becoming biodegradable would need to come from national government.

We encourage our residents to recycle whenever possible. Each household has access to at least a weekly mixed recycling collection, in addition to the on-street recycling facilities for mixed recycling, textiles, books and small electrical appliances we provide.