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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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