Response to Islington Council’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Plan 2018 – 2022

Its all go on strategy updates at the moment in Islington.  This is my response on behalf of Islington Greens to the recycling strategy.  To be honest I nearly gave up on this and several residents told me they got as far as page 5 and gave up.  There were 23 pages of an online consultation and it was often unclear what we were being asked to strongly agree/disagree with.

I’m really worried that Islington has no plan to improve the frankly woeful rates of recycling and food waste collection. We’ve been missing our recycling targets year on year. If the Council is serious about tackling the climate emergency, then they should be working with residents, getting us all on board to help with the urgent work to reduce, reuse and recycle Islington’s waste.

Response by Cllr Caroline Russell on behalf of Islington Green Party to Islington Council’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Plan 2018 – 2022.

Islington Green Party welcomes the opportunity to respond to this consultation.

We note that:

The Department for Food Environment & Rural Affairs released the borough recycling figures in December 2018, showing the Islington household recycling rate fell from 31.6% in 2016/17 to 29.5% in 2017/18.

A 2004 Sustainability Review Committee report[i]shows that back in 2000, Islington recycling rates were just 3.5%. By 2004 the target was 10% with an 18% target in 2005/06 and looking further into the future the council predicted 35% by 2010 and 45% by 2015.

Islington recycling rates have remained stubbornly stuck hovering around 30% over recent years and last year dipped below 30% again. The borough is not meeting its recycling targets, despite them being reset from the targets anticipated in 2004.


Table to show Islington Recycling rates (assembled from multiple sources)

Year Recycling rate Target
2010/11 30.4%
2014/15 32.8%
2015/16 29.4% 34.5%
2016/17 31.6% 35.2%
2017/18 29.5% 37% by 2020
2018/19 36.09%


We are concerned that measures outlined in the consultation are:

  • unlikely to close the gap between current recycling rates and the Mayor’s target for Islington.
  • unlikely to inspire Islington residents to reduce, reuse and recycle more

The consultation is 23 online pages, some of which are very long and wordy.

The questions asked do not lend themselves to simple agree/disagree responses.

We note that this consultation is running late for a plan that runs from 2018-2022 and many of the target dates, referred to in the consultation, have already passed.

The ‘Vision’ on page 1, makes no mention of the Climate Emergency or the important role of waste management in reducing our carbon footprint. With Islington shortly expected to declare a Climate Emergency, the importance of waste reduction and recycling in reducing carbon emissions should be acknowledged in the Vision for this Plan.

The report cites the need to get residents engaged with recycling, however many technical terms and jargon are used in the consultation that make the it inaccessible to residents. We recommend engaging residents with shorter more focused and plain language consultations in future. We have been contacted by highly engaged residents who have given up in despair after completing 5 or 6 pages of the online consultation.

We note the following technical terms/jargon which are included, without explanation, in the consultation text:

  • Circular economy p5
  • `Regulation 18’ p5
  • TriFocal p7
  • The food system p7
  • Acronyms: LWARB, RRC, NLWA, LACW p13
  • Arisings p18
  • Thermally treated (= burning?) p21


The following observations are based on the consultation and are ordered by Objective and referred to by page number (from the online consultation).

Objective 1 – Drive resource efficiency to significantly reduce waste focusing on food waste and single use packaging

Page 5.  Objective 1: Drive resource efficiency to significantly reduce waste, focusing on food waste and single use packaging waste – Local policy or waste contract commitment

The objectives set out on page 5 seek to achieve things by a date in the past.

The 36.09% target for Islington for 2018/19 in support of the NLWA target of 50% recycling by 2020 is clearly unlikely to be met.  There is a worrying lack of urgency about addressing the need to get our household recycling rate up from the last year’s worrying 29.5%. This should be a priority.

The Council needs to explain how the objectives set out on page 5 will be met and what the council will do differently from previous working practice to achieve each one.

The 2007 NWLA Waste Prevention Plan needs an urgent review as it has not delivered the reduction in waste that is required.

This page of the consultation refers to a variety of bodies, organisations, strategies and plans without adequate explanation. This purpose of this detail is unclear and makes the consultation less accessible.

We welcome the council developing a Circular Economy Action plan.

Q12 asks for our views on food waste and single use packaging but neither of these are specifically mentioned in the accompanying text. Both are urgent issues and we look forward to seeing a specific plan to address these.

Further there is no text on the “waste contract commitment”.  We are happy to respond to this once the council gives the details and we suggest that the consultation period is extended so that residents can give their views too.

Page 6 Objective 1:Drive resource efficiency to significantly reduce waste, focusing on food waste and single use packaging waste – Core Service Provision

If the council is going to achieve better rates of recycling, food waste collection must be dramatically improved in all property types.  Food waste recycling levels are low across the borough and there is no sense that the council wishes people to remove their food waste from the black bin collections.

Page 7 Objective 1: Drive resource efficiency to significantly reduce waste, focusing on food waste and single use packaging waste – behaviour change activities

We are concerned that Islington states it is “proud of its record in reducing household waste” when targets are being consistently missed.  It is essential the council recognises the poor performance in recycling over recent years in order to achieve the necessary step change in performance.

Single use plastic:We welcome the council’s support for the Mayor of London’s drinking water fountain scheme to reduce single use plastic bottle waste and hope to see it extended to all shopping centres and stations. It is disappointing to see no other examples where the council could be reducing single use plastics.

We welcome the Council’s efforts to eliminate single use plastic in council building catering.  It is disappointing to see no mention of the extensive use of single use plastic items (cutlery, drinking cups etc) in the borough’s schools. If Islington is serious about plastic waste reduction, schools are a key area of focus.

Another area of single use plastic waste is unflushable single use nappies, wet-wipes, period products and incontinence products.  There are several ways that the Council could be working to reduce this plastic waste set out in the “Unflushables”[ii]report of the London Assembly Environment Committee.

Food waste: There is very little detail in this section.We would expect to see a comprehensive plan to engage with residents to waste less food and massively decrease the food going in black bin collection.  This is crucial for reducing carbon emissions.

Reuse:Islington Council set up Bright Sparks in 2010 (not 2005 as stated).  It was set up by former Cllr Katie Dawson to provide a repair service for small household electrical items (as the name, Bright Sparks, suggests!) – the kind so often discarded for want of a place to repair them.  The scheme also offered training in electrical skills and employment opportunities for local young people.  We are disappointed that the scheme has been significantly downgraded to a second-hand furniture service.

We are glad that Islington participates in the real nappy voucher scheme and would like to see it better promoted so that parents can save money and reduce their use of single use plastic disposable nappies. We would like to see figures for uptake of the scheme published annually (along with past figures) and ambitious targets set for the future.

We welcome reuse projects as a way for people to save money, reuse items and reduce waste going to landfill. There is no timetable for the (welcome) proposed new reuse projects on estates.  This should be made available so that the council’s progress can be measured.

Circular Economy:  All the activities listed (Bright Sparks, Nappy Scheme, Composting) are things adopted by a tiny minority of the borough’s residents.  What is the council proposing to do to increase take up?

Page 8 Objective 1: Drive resource efficiency to significantly reduce waste, focusing on food waste and single use packaging waste – Expected impact towards achieving local targets

All three categories set targets against 2017/18 figures. ie a year when targets were missed.  This is setting the bar low for 2022 and 2025 targets.

Objective 2 – Maximise recycling rates

 Page 10 Objective 2:Maximise recycling rates –local policy or waste contract commitment

This page is densely written, and it is unclear what we are being asked to support/object to.

The inclusion of terms such as “Regulation 18” and “waste arisings” makes the consultation impenetrable for residents.

Page 11 Objective 2:Maximise recycling rates – Core service provision

Exceeding the minimum requirements.There is no information about take up of services.  Without this, it is meaningless to comment.  We understand anecdotally that many schools are not recycling. Similarly, there is no information on recycling rates among faith organisations, and other groups in the borough or outreach work (if any) undertaken.

Commercial waste recycling.

Traders at Highbury Barn tell us that food waste recycling or even a compost bin would be a help along with a way to give usable but slightly damaged fruit or veg to people to cook with.

“A recycling bin would be so useful as our shops put out so many cardboard and plastic boxes from our deliveries. The ones in Highbury Fields by the pool look rather nice, so shouldn’t get any complaints.”

Disposal, treatment and waste sites.We wonder on what evidence the Council bases the statement that “Islington’s collection system maximises efficiency whilst encouraging the broadest participation in recycling”.

It is not clear what we are being asked to comment on in this section that sets out the waste disposal provision for the borough.

Page 12 Objective 2: Maximise recycling rates – Behaviour change activities

Communicating with our residents.  We welcome smart use of data to focus communications where needed. We welcome the aspiration to get residents, community groups and all council partners and staff such as caretakers involved in increasing the take up of recycling but there are no actions or dates set out.  It would be useful to have a clear schedule of actions so that these can be monitored.

Purpose built flats and Better Recycling Sites.Clearly making it easy for residents to recycle is good and its important there is regular communication about the Council’s expectations of residents.  The only time related action for the council is to consult on bringing in a tenancy agreement clause about recycling by 2021.  We would like to see more actions and ambitious targets with timescales for improving recycling in flats.

Accessible recycling bins, reverse lid bins, the Trifocal food waste campaign, litter, leading by example and compulsory recycling. This section lists the Council’s recycling measures.  We are not sure what we are being asked to support/object to? We welcome any measures to make recycling more accessible. We are unaware of the ways the council communicates its compulsory recycling programme to residents.

Schools and children.We welcome that recycling is on the curriculum in schools, Children’s Centres and other settings such as Adventure Playgrounds.  There is no information about performance and we would expect to see regular reporting of volumes or tonnages of recycling from these settings.  In particular we would expect the school caterers to be reporting on food and non-food waste volumes and tonnages and to be reducing their use of single use plastic items. We are unsure what we are being asked to support/object to in this section.

Commercial waste recycling. Why will it take over a year to develop new commercial waste business and communications plans?

Overall, we are concerned at the lack of urgency to improve communications with residents to increase recycling levels.  We would expect to see timed targets for actions so that progress can be monitored.

Page 13. Objective 2: Maximise recycling rates – Expected impact towards achieving local targets

Islington is missing its recycling targets. We should be achieving a 36% recycling rate, but rates are static at about 30%. We note the council sees resident uptake of recycling services as crucial to meeting the targets but there is no action that explains how the council will persuade residents to do this.

We note the council’s ambition to achieve 36% recycling by 2025 and an interim 33% in 2022.  This is unambitious. We consider Islington should aim to achieve these rates faster so the borough plays its part in reducing London’s carbon emissions due to waste management.

We note that the borough plans to work with LWARB to set targets beyond 2025 but that there is no action towards this at present.

We note that the Mayor’s study suggests Islington’s recycling rate could be 41% if the council moved to weekly food waste and recycling collections with fortnightly residual (black bin) collections.

If the council’s efforts to improve communication with residents do not boost recycling rates significantly, then the council should move to weekly food waste and recycling collections with fortnightly collection for the few items that cannot be recycled.

Objective 3: Reduce the environmental impact of waste activities

Page 15 Objective 3 – Reduce the environmental impact of waste activities local policy or waste contract commitment

Compliance with the Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is essential. The consultation does not include detail of the vehicle procurement strategy, but this should include compliance with the ULEZ at the earliest possible time.

Page 16 Objective 3: Reduce the environmental impact of waste activities – core service provision

We welcome plans to cut diesel use and electrify the waste fleets of Islington Council and the NWLA.

We hope that Islington will resist any plans at the NWLA Edmonton site, including building on the riverside wharf area, that would prevent water being used as means of transport in future.

Page 17. Objective 3: Reduce the environmental impact of waste activities –Behaviour change activities

 Emissions Performance Standard

We welcome the use of Environmental Performance Standards (EPS) to measure carbon emissions alongside the weight-based targets for recycling.  We also welcome the ways the council plans to reduce its EPS, but would like to see a baseline and target so progress can be measured.

We are, however, very concerned that the NWLA will be continuing to operate an incinerator and expect the council to aim to minimise waste from Islington that is burned.


We note the council has achieved bronze FORS membership.  We would expect a target date for Silver FORS membership to be achieved and for the council to look at behaviour change in driving style, not only to reduce road danger, but also to reduce fuel use with smooth steady driving.

Page 18.  Objective 3: Reduce the environmental impact of waste activities – Expected impact towards achieving local targets

We note that the EPS target will only be set once the commercial waste recycling rate has been set. We would like to see a date for this, to help with tracking progress.

The targets for 2021/22 relate to a baseline 2017/18 where targets were missed. This is unambitious.

We are unable to comment on the food waste tonnage increases as there is no baseline to compare to.

The targets for 2025/26 are unclear about whether the 700 tonne food waste increase is on top of the 700 tonne increase to 2021/22.  This should be clear to aid tracking. There is insufficient information provided to say whether the percentage increases in materials collected are ambitious enough.

Objective 4: Maximise local waste sites and ensure London has sufficient infrastructure to manage all the waste it produces

Page 21 Objective 4: Maximise local waste sites and ensure London has sufficient infrastructure to manage all the waste it produces – Core service provision

We are concerned that there is no anaerobic digestion for food waste.  We are also concerned that the incinerator capacity for burning waste is a disincentive to maximising recycling levels and risks materials that could be reused or recycled being burned unnecessarily.

We prefer to see plain language used in consultations.  “thermal treating” in the first paragraph on page 21 presumably means “burning”.  If we want residents and businesses to understand what is happening to our waste that does not get recycled, it is helpful to use plain language.

Page 22 Objective 4: Maximise local waste sites and ensure London has sufficient infrastructure to manage all the waste it produces – behaviour change activities

The Wise Up to Waste website looks interesting but we are not sure how well known it is.  Perhaps the Council could do more to make residents aware it exists?

Page 23 Objective 4: Maximise local waste sites and ensure London has sufficient infrastructure to manage all the waste it produces – Expected impact towards achieving local targets

The only question in this section is about “RRC performance”.  There is insufficient information to judge whether the RRC recycling rates are ambitious enough. We understand that this consultation is directed at residents.  RRC is not an acronym that people use in everyday life.  We suggest that acronyms are not used in future consultations.