Johnson plans to reward London recyclers

January 29, 2010 at 4:01 pm

London is one of the lowest-ranked major cities in the world when it comes to recycling levels, but that could all be about to change if Mayor Boris Johnson gets his way. He is backing a new scheme to improve recycling rates across the city and bin London’s poor reputation.

Named ‘Recycle Bank’, the scheme has already proved popular in the United States and Johnson is hoping the success will be mirrored here. As part of the scheme, households are given shopping vouchers based on how much they recycle at home, or they can choose to donate the money to charity instead. Johnson said that this would lead to about £14 per month extra coming into most households.

The mayor wants London to be on the same level as other major cities when it comes to recycling household waste. It currently has the lowest rates of recycling in England, and only about a quarter of the rubbish produced is currently recycled.

One of most important things for Johnson is to get more of the people living in flats and multi-occupancy buildings to recycle, especially when it comes to food waste. Currently half the homes in London fit this description, and this obviously presents its own challenges as they do not have gardens in which to compost their waste.

If the new scheme takes off and proves to be a success, it will form part of a larger plan for the Mayor who wants to save £90 million a year through greater investment in green technology and better recycling across the city.

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Christmas waste could cost councils £78 million

January 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm

If you were left wondering what to do with your Christmas tree earlier this week, you could do worse than follow the example of London Mayor, Boris Johnson, who had the 65 foot tree in Trafalgar Square chipped, shredded and composted to be turned at a later stage into fertilising mulch.

In London alone, 35 tonnes of Christmas trees are thrown away, resulting in a large bill for landfill tax. The London Mayor was therefore urging all householders to take advantage of the recycling facilities for Christmas trees offered by all 33 London Boroughs. 27 of these will collect trees from homes whilst 26 also offer special collection points. Alternatively Christmas trees which have roots can be planted in the garden and dug up in time for next Christmas.

This advice follows the revelation that local councils for England and Wales could face a huge bill for disposing of Christmas waste in landfill. With householders sending almost 2 million tonnes of Christmas waste to landfill and councils being charged £40 tax per tonne, it is easy to see how a bill of around £78 million arises.

One celebrity supporting the recycling message in the run up to Christmas was Dame Judi Dench, who was encouraging people to recycle their Christmas cards through the Woodland Trust’s scheme. This enables householders to take their cards to special collection points in T K Max, Marks and Spencer and W H Smith and then go online to choose where they want trees to be planted using funding from the retail partners. For further details of the scheme see the Trust’s website.

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Three ways to reuse old Christmas cards

January 13, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Each January we must tend to the undoing of a task which was full of excitement back in December. The party is over for another year and normality resumes. The tinsel and baubles are packed away (they have a duty to fulfil next year), but a pile of Christmas cards sit redundant.

Instead of reaching for the dustbin just yet, here are a few ideas to make more of old cards while also being good to the environment.


The Woodland Trust is again running its annual scheme to recycle donated cards into paper products, the profits of which help fund tree planting throughout the UK. During January, cards can be deposited at Woodland Trust collection boxes, located at WHSmith, TK Maxx and Marks & Spencer stores.

The Trust is hoping to collect enough to facilitate the planting of fifteen thousand trees, helping towards sustaining the UK’s percentage of woodland area. Over the last twelve years, 13,080 tonnes of cards have been gratefully accepted, enabling 155,000 native trees to be planted across the country. Participants can even have a say in where the trees should be planted by voting on the Woodland Trust website.

Get Creative

Trying your hand at some home crafting can prove an enjoyable activity with family and friends. With a little glue and a pair of scissors, Christmas cards can be transformed into all kinds of new treasures, from games to decorations for next year’s festive season.

There are many websites offering tips on things to make from your old cards at home. Activity Village and Family Crafts offer step by step instructions for a raft of ideas, including gift boxes, gift tags, card ornaments, picture frames, new cards and jigsaw games.


Another rewarding way of dispensing with your old cards could be to donate them to charities and schools where they may be used for craft projects. You may, however, find some unable or unwilling to accept card donations. The best advice is to call beforehand.

A registered UK charity certainly accepting of donations is the Cobalt Appeal Fund. The charity, based in Cheltenham, aims to raise funds to facilitate the research, screening and diagnosis of cancer. A Christmas card scheme will run until January 22nd where all cards collected will be recycled into new ones ready for sale next autumn. For more information on the charity and where to send your used cards, please visit the website.

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Social deprivation affects recycling rates

January 8, 2010 at 1:50 pm

It has long been recognised that social deprivation affects mortality and morbidity rates, mental health, educational success and a myriad of other outcomes but it now seems from recent research, carried out by WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), that recycling rates are also affected.

The more poverty stricken an area is, the lower its recycling rate is likely to be. Perhaps this should come as no surprise: after all, if a family is struggling to keep its head above water the last thing on its mind is finding time to separate its cardboard from its glass and its vegetable peelings from its plastics.

The study found that 25% of the differential in recycling rates between councils can be attributed to socio-economic and geographical factors. The more urban an area is, the poorer its recycling rate will be. Parts of Lincolnshire and the Cotswolds were amongst the best performers, whilst poor urban areas such as London’s Tower Hamlets and Newham were amongst the worst. The differentials were said to be “most pronounced at the extremes” i.e. in the most prosperous and most deprived areas.

A quick look at Tower Hamlets’ website reveals that recycling facilities appear to be good. Weekly collections are made of glass, cans, paper, card, aerosols, tetra paks and plastic bottles, none of which have to be separated, making it easy for householders. The majority of properties have recycling bins and, in the case of flats, shared bins. There are also 50 street recycling bins across the borough. Kitchen and garden waste is also collected for recycling and special provisions exist for large items such as furniture or cookers.

Cotswold residents are provided with a whole list of rules and regulations on their council website and also have to separate their recyclables into blue and black recycling sacks for different materials.

Many residents of Tower Hamlets will not have access to the internet and many will not speak or read English, even if they have the time and/or inclination to recycle. It would seem that the best way forward is through community education.

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