Waste growth could put pressure on London’s roads

London’s rising population over the next 30 years could result in an extra strain on the city’s roads as a result of increased demand for waste collection services, the London Assembly Environment Committee has warned.

The Committee has published a report today (21 September) on the future of waste services in the capital, in which it warns that due to the anticipated growth in London’s population to between 10-13 million before 2050, more vehicle movements could be needed to collect waste.

London’s rising population ‘could put the equivalent of 500,000 refuse trucks of rubbish on London’s roads each year’

In 2016, London’s local authorities collected an estimated 3.7 million tonnes of waste from the city’s 8.7 million population. This could rise by around 1 million tonnes per year, the Committee claims, if population growth keeps up with expectations and the volume of waste produced per capita maintains its current level.

In its report, the Environment Committee, which monitors the Mayor of London’s green policies, warned: “If Londoners continue to produce the same amount of waste per person it would require local authorities to collect nearly an extra one million tonnes of waste, equal to an extra 500,000 refuse trucks of rubbish on London’s roads each year. Experts have warned that this growth will be unsustainable and put an increasing strain on waste infrastructure, land and resource.”

Air pollution

This could also have a knock-on effect on air pollution with an increasing volume of traffic potentially resulting in a rise in harmful vehicle emissions, unless the city’s clean air policies are successful in removing highly polluting vehicles from the roads.

Some businesses in the waste and recycling sector have already begun looking towards lower emission vehicle fuels in a bid to keep pace with an increased focus on vehicle emissions. Oxfordshire-based firm Grundon Waste Management has recently begun a trial of a hydrogen- diesel dual-fuelled refuse collection vehicle, which will be running in the capital (see airqualitynews.com story).

The Mayor has already targeted a reduction in the number of car journeys made in the capital by 3 million by 2041 – with his draft Transport Strategy, published in June, setting a goal to have 80% of journeys made on foot, bike or via public transport over the same timeframe.

The Environment Committee has claimed that in order to avoid an unsustainable increase in waste traffic, more work is needed to prevent waste and foster a ‘circular economy’ which sees more efficient resource use, including product remanufacturing and redistribution.

Environment Committee Chair, Leonie Cooper AM, said: “The way we deal with waste in London needs to change. Recycling rates have fallen, the population continues to grow, and landfill space is quickly running out.”