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On 13th Nov 2019 the Sustainable Living group of the Highgate Society brought together speakers  to explore what happens to waste in North London, and whether residents can improve the recycling rates.

Ursula Taylor of the North London Waste Authority explained how the authority deals with waste, Carina Millstone of Feedback talked about Food Waste, Andrea Speranza of TRAID talked about clothes waste and Jasmine Cockcroft of Plastic Free Crouch End talked about Plastic waste.

What Happens to North London Waste?

The North London Waste Authority has a schematic explaining what happens to the streams of a) mixed recycling, b) garden recycling, c) food recycling and d) general waste.


The outputs shown are a) metal recycling markets, b) repeat manufacture into plastic, c) new plastic products, d) insulation, e) road surfaces, f) compost, g) fertilizer, h) electricity and emissions and i) heat.

According to the \’Lets Recycle News\’ here the NLWA contracts for recycling processing will be renewed in Dec 2019. Biffa at Edmonton will sort >120,000 tonnes of commingled material per year and Bywaters at Bromley by Bow  will sort apx 30,000 tonnes of commingled material per year.

The contract includes the requirement for \”improved reporting and traceability for end destinations for recycling\” which should makes it easier for residents in the 7 NLWA Boroughs to monitor responsible disposal of their recycling, with maximum reuse and minimum sent to unsuitable destinations. lists the councillors representing each Borough to raise any suggestions or concerns.

Food Waste

Carina Millstone of Feedback talked about wasting less food as a household action to address the climate crisis.

She emphasised  the importance of avoiding over purchase of food, and choosing community supported agriculture, box schemes and farmers markets above supermarkets.

She suggested that people could challenge supermarkets on how they deal with waste food.

And also called for donations to Feedback

Clothes and Fashion

Andrea Speranza of TRAID talked about ways to reduce the mountain of clothes that find their way into the waste stream.

Her talk can be found at

Her top five messages are:

  • Help TRAID to put  back into use the 123 million items of clothing that are sitting unworn in London\’s wardrobes; passing on clothes for someone else to use is something we can all do to make a difference.
  • Extending the life of clothes by an extra 9 months would reduce clothing  waste footprint by around 20-30% each.
  • Ensure that there are enough textile recycling banks in your local community.
  • Spread the word about the  Environmental Audit Committee’s recommendations in its “Fixing Fashion” report: ask your MP to support the EAC ‘s  recommendations.
  • Around 166 million items of clothing could be re-used if repaired:  learn, share and promote repair skills.

Plastic Waste

Jasmine Cockcroft of Plastic Free Crouch End talked about the work being done around Crouch End and Haringey.

The talk is here

Jasmine left 5 top actions that people can take


and also an excellent quick guide to compare the carbon footprint of various swaps. See below Swap or Not

North London Waste Authority

Ursula Taylor of North London Waste Authority updated the audience on the aims and activities of the North London Waste Authority. Her slides are here

NLWA covers Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest, with two councillors on the board from each Borough. The councillors on the NLWA board from each Borough are at 

Ursula provided links to the Wise Up to Waste information site with a section on Reuse, including Repair Cafes and Swishing. Ursula had 5 top messages for the audience:

  1. Start with Stopping!
  2. Recycle Right
  3. Make Do and Mend
  4. Sharing is Caring
  5. Pass It On


For the responsible North London resident and business

  • If in doubt put in general waste
  • Black trays can\’t be identified as plastic by the automation
  • Vegware can\’t be identified as compostable in food waste by the automation
  • Compostable generally means in an industrial composter, not for home composters
  • Discounts on bringing your own cup has a positive effect, but perhaps charging extra for requireing a cup could be more effective
  • Co-mingled usually achieves higher recycling rates than multiple single streams and is easier to collect 
  • No glitter
  • No oil or food on items
  • caps to be separate

For the Waste administrators

  • Dedicated collection per specialist items are more valuable but require more outlets to set up dedicated collection points  eg coffee cups, coffee grounds, wrapping paper for recycling.
  • Real time end to end view of the route from premises to final disposal fate would enable responsible residents to recycle more.

For the unconcerned litterer

  • What would motivate the change in behaviour that is needed of residents who litter and dump good stuff?

For the powers that be

  • What would motivate a UK wide relentless focus on minimum waste and treatment of waste to minimise the climate crisis and to protect our land, air and waters rather than the ever changing profit focus?