If London Borough Recycling Rules Were the Same, Would You Recycle More?

Recycling levels in the United Kingdom have started to plummet in recent years. In fact, it is estimated that 27 million tonnes of waste end up on landfill sites each year. Recent predictions go as far to say that all the remaining space will be full within eight years. Europe’s largest independent stockist of new plastic storage boxes and second hand plastic boxes, Alison Handling, recently asked 2,000 London residents if they would consider recycling more of their waste if rules were the same in every London borough:

  • 52.07% would recycle more.
  • 47.93% wouldn’t recycle more.

Whilst there isn’t a great different the results still represent unsatisfactory levels of recycling enthusiasm within the capital.

News vs Mobile

There was one notable area where the survey results stood out. That was the percentage in mobile users who answered the question in comparison to those who answers from a news website. The table below shows that more than two-thirds of those who answered on a mobile app said yes, whilst less than half said yes when answering from a news source. 53% said yes on other websites such as entertainment, reference and shopping sites.


Former-London mayor Boris Johnson targeted news publications with his environmental campaign, yet this survey suggests he would have had more success by running a campaign on a mobile application.

The Best & Worst

According to DEFRA’s recycling report for 2015:

  • Bexley had the best recycling rate at 54%
  • Lewisham had the worst recycling rate at 17%

These statistics are quite a surprise as Bexley have implemented an extra bin for their recycling – the maroon box that separates plastic food and drink containers/cartons from the paper and cardboard green box. In comparison, Lewisham provides a singular bin for all recyclable items. Bexley have a total of four different bins for recycling. This suggests that stricter recycling policies result in higher recycling rates. The rather outdated regulations that the Lewisham council still use to enforce recycling has even resulted in them falling far behind the neighbouring borough of Bromley who recycle 48% of their waste.


Lewisham received £75,000 from Recycle for London in 2012 to invest in improving their recycling rates. It was spent on:

  • An 8-page booklet entitled ‘Your New and Improved Recycling Changes’ for 80,000 properties.
  • Kerbside recycling bin stickers.
  • 5,000 test-run recycling contamination tags.
  • 8 recycling banners for community events.
  • 10 truck designs for recycling vehicles.
  • A ‘One Year on Recycling Reminder/Thank you’ leaflet.
  • 8-page booklet on ‘Stands for Refuse & Recycling’.

In comparison, Bexley received £107,000 from the London Waste and Recycling Board; which they used to introduce ‘The London Green Points Bexley’. This is a reward scheme aimed at encouraging citizens to recycle more and reduce waste through rewarding points.

These points can be redeemed and put towards a purchase of their choice or be donated to one of three local charities. Points are awarded if there is a reduction in residual waste and an increase in recycling for the entire community.

The scheme has already been introduced to all flats in Bexley with the intention of creating a similar scheme that works for houses in the near future.

  • Since 1998/1999, Bexley has increased recycling rates on average by 37%.
  • Since 1998/1999, Lewisham has increased recycling rates on average by only 13%

Should Lewisham council invest their funding’s on improving their recycling facilities instead of marketing? These statistics certainly suggest that it is vital for Lewisham to strive towards introducing a more beneficial recycling system instead of advertising the need for recycling.

Quality of Living

Livings standards in Bexley are substantially better than in Lewisham: Crime Rate:

  • Between May 2015-2016, Bexley’s total crime rate was 12,600
  • Between May 2015-2016, Lewisham’s total crime rate was 24,736


  • 39% of 19 year olds in Bexley lack qualifications
  • 44% of 19 year olds in Lewisham lack qualifications

There is also a significant difference in GCSEs achieved by secondary schools in Bexley and Lewisham:

  • 97% of Beths Grammar School pupils, Bexley achieve at least 5 A*-C at GCSE including England and Maths.
  • 55% of Trinity Church of England pupils, Lewisham achieve at least 5 A*-C at GCSE including English and Maths.


  • 4% of Bexley’s population is unemployed.
  • Almost 7% of Lewisham’s population is unemployed.


  • 5% of Bexley’s homes are overcrowded.
  • 12% of Lewisham’s homes are overcrowded.


  • 23% of Bexley’s children are living in poverty.
  • 34% of Lewisham’s children are living in poverty.

The number of issues requiring urgent improvement within Lewisham limit the amount of expenditure available for the council to invest into recycling. It makes it quite shocking that Bexley received considerably more funding for recycling in comparison. Should Lewisham’s council have enough funding to address these higher priority issues, citizens could feel more encouraged to recycle.

Will it Change Anything?

Although this survey suggests that participants would recycle more if every London borough implemented identical recycling policies, the chances of this happening really depends on available funding to individual boroughs and overall circumstances. In the case of Lewisham – education, unemployment and a decreased crime rate would understandably be classed as a higher priority. Without decent financial aid we can predict that it is unlikely a unified London borough recycling policy will be introduced anytime soon. The data from Alison Handling’s survey can be downloaded here. Alison Handling are an environmentally friendly business – their plastic boxes are fully recyclable and most are produced from recycled materials.