Simpler Recycling won’t boost recycling rates says North London waste authority

Recycling efforts by north London’s two million residents will not be significantly boosted by the new Simpler Recycling proposals, the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) has warned.

While the waste disposal authority said it broadly welcomed plans for consistent collections, it has called for more ambitious changes to facilitate a sustainable and circular economic transition.

Chair, Cllr Clyde Loakes, pointed out that the requirements do not include strategies to reduce consumption, tackle the contamination of recycling or address the issue of recyclable materials going to waste.

In its response to a Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) consultation on proposed exemptions, including the co-collection of dry mixed recyclables, NLWA argued that local authorities are best placed to decide how they collect waste and recycling in their areas. This includes taking into account local circumstances in relation to the frequency of residual waste collections.

Cllr Loakes said: “The Government should be making a herculean effort to ensure that producers minimise packaging that needs recycling or disposal. All packaging should be made from sustainable materials that can easily be recycled. And crucially, producers must make products that can be easily reused, repaired, or dismantled for parts towards new products.”

This is particularly important if food waste recycling is to be introduced for all households across England in 2026.

NLWA has called for clarity on how this will be delivered in practice, especially to people living in flats and on estates where access and space can often hinder effective recycling.

Cllr Loakes added: “The move to roll out separate food waste collections to all properties is positive, but there is little detail on how the Government will help meet some of the challenges. And while the Government has said it will fund the new services, they said it will be based on ambiguous ‘modelled costs’ and funds from Extended Producer Responsibility payments by manufacturers, which could bring more complications.”

There are also concerns about finding market capacity to take additional waste, including plastic film and plastic bags, which will be included in collections by 2027.

Given that these are lightweight items and recycling rates are currently calculated by tonnage, NLWA has urged the Government to implement new methods to calculate success.

The Authority also called for the Deposit Return Scheme and Extended Producer Responsibility to be implemented without further delay to move the burden of waste management back on producers and create an economic incentive for them to reduce waste.