Council tries to deal with free newspaper problem

July 19, 2007 at 10:29 am

As any commuter knows, the number of free newspapers being thrust at you is on the increase. Consequently, so too is the amount of discarded paper flying around the streets. Newspapers account for 25% of street litter with the worst affected areas being Charing Cross and Embankment, Victoria Station, Oxford St and Leicester Square. Almost a million of these free newspapers are distributed to commuters each day, who usually either drop them where they walk or put them straight in the nearest bin.

Since the introduction last summer of London Lite and The London Paper more than 100,000 tonnes of discarded free papers have ended up in landfill, rendered unsuitable for recycling because they are so badly contaminated with other waste. This is costing the Westminster taxpayer £111,000 a year. The council already provides 131 bins for recycling newspapers but will need another 300 to cope with the extra papers. The cost of these new bins plus the extra lorries and staff to do the collections will amount to more than half a million pounds and this is why Westminster Council have decided enough is enough and have given the publishers of the free papers a month to reach a voluntary agreement. If this is not done then the council will reduce the number of distribution points, introduce permits to tackle the problem, or enforce litter pick-up schemes. Unfortunately under the Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act the council cannot force the publishers to recycle.

Despite all this negative press, one group of people (apart from the homeless who use the papers as bedding) who would be sad to see their demise are the street vendors of the Evening Standard who supplement their income by distributing the freebies.

The publishers (the Daily Mail & General Trust and News International) are both said to be committed to solving the problem and have offered to meet some of the £500,000 for extra bins and collection. However, it was clear at the meeting on July 9th that Westminster Council’s patience is wearing thin.

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