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zero waste survey results cover page
  • 87 per cent of survey respondents want a future without incineration, based on as much recycling and reuse as possible
  • 91 per cent agree that their council should adopt a target of 65 per cent recycling of waste by 2030 as a minimum.
  • 85 percent want their council's recycling budget increased

An overwhelming majority of north London residents who responded to a recent survey are in favour of a waste strategy that does not include incineration and favour a significant increase in recycling and reuse.

These are the headline findings of the North London Zero Waste survey, which sought to find out opinions about current arrangements for collecting and recycling waste, how they could be improved, what new services could be introduced and how people view energy from waste incineration. A detailed report published on Tuesday contains detailed analysis of the results, explanations of the methodology used and a list of recommendations for borough councils.

The researchers combined online questionnaires with door-to-door in-person surveys to ensure that non-internet users were not excluded. Questions were tailored to reflect individual boroughs' differing waste and recycling arrangements. In all, there were 1560 online and 69 in-person responses.

The resident-led campaign group behind the survey, Let's Talk Rubbish, seeks to "supercharge" recycling, reuse and composting in order to minimise the negative environmental impact of the way north London manages its rubbish. They are particularly concerned about incineration, which creates unhealthy air pollution and, most importantly, emits large quantities of greenhouse gases and thus contributes to the looming climate crisis.

Another concern relates to the location of north London's current, and planned future, incinerator, as Edmonton is one of the country's most deprived areas and a high proportion of its residents who have to breathe in the unhealthy air belong to ethnic minorities.

The seven north London boroughs that are represented on the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) have extremely low recycling rates (only around 30 per cent) compared with their targets and with those achieved by other local authorities in the UK and abroad. The NLWA recently signed a contract to replace the current waste incinerator in Edmonton with an even larger plant that will emit greenhouse gases for up to 50 years. The waste authority blames the low recycling rates on residents, but the campaigners believe that the need to "feed" the new incinerator will act as a strong economic disincentive against the NLWA taking more effective steps to increase reuse and recycling. Even though the construction contract has been signed, the campaigners continue their efforts to stop the new incinerator.

In parallel with carrying out the survey, North London Zero Waste have been asking candidates standing in tomorrow's elections to sign up to a manifesto based on four commitments: a recyling commitment, a reuse commitment, a waste prevention commitment and a community commitment. As of 3rd May 674 candidates (48 per cent) had signed up to the four commitments.

North London Zero Waste Survey May 2022 - all boroughs results report

Summary of survey responses

Incineration future

Of all respondents 87% answered that they are concerned about the air pollution and climate change impacts of the incineration of our rubbish, and equally 87% would like their council to develop a strategy for a future without incineration, based on as much recycling and reuse as possible.

Recycling target

91% of respondents agree that their council should adopt the London Environment Strategy target for 65% recycling of household, business and commercial waste by 2030 as a minimum, 4% disagree, and 5% are not sure.

Recycling budget

85% of respondents answered that they feel their council’s recycling budget should be increased, 6.5% maintained, 2.3% reduced, and 6.2% is not sure. The ratio’s were similar for all 7 councils.

Incinerator rebuild

46% answered that they see the decision to rebuild the incinerator in Edmonton as a case of environmental racism versus 30% who are not sure and 24% who disagree, which increases to 59% when considering the combined responses from black, brown and other ethnic minority groups, versus 21% who are not sure and 20% who disagree.

Food waste collection

The majority of respondents without food waste caddies state that they would try using a food waste caddy if they would receive one from their council, this covers all properties including those with communal bins.

Food caddies

A key reason why respondents do not have food waste caddies is that a majority state they are not aware of the possibility to order a free food waste caddy from their council website.

Plastics collection

76% of respondents answered that they would be in favour of a separate bag or bin for all plastics from home, 18% were also in favour yet signalled they would not have space for an additional bin and a bag would be preferred.

Food waste composting

51% of respondents answered they would be interested in join a community composting scheme and bring their food waste to a composting site in a nearby park, allotment or garden, 11% responded they would volunteer to run the composting group, and 38% answered they are not interested in this or that there is no space for community composting near their household.


Of parents using disposable nappies 41% responded they would be interested to try reusable nappies if they would be given a voucher. Indicating that about half of all parents in north London potentially would use reusable nappies.


Of the 153 parent or carer respondents 65% responded that they would bring their nappies to a local collection point if they would be composted, 17% responded they would continue to use reusable nappies (26 out of 32 reusable nappy users), and 18% responded they would continue to put nappies in the rubbish.


Of respondents in the 5 boroughs without a clothing collection service from home*, 89% stated they would use a clothing collection service from home, and 11% stated they would not.

Reuse and recycling centres

13% of respondents state they often drop off ‘other stuff’ at reuse and recycling centre, 51% a few times per year, and 36% almost never to never. The main reasons cited why respondents do not drop off wastes at reuse and recycling centres are the lack of car ownership and because they have never heard of these centres. 9% of all respondents stated they are not aware of their existence, and 20% do not use reuse and recycling centres because they don’t have a car or because it is too far to travel.

Key recommendations for north London councils

  1. To adopt the London Environment Strategy target for 65% recycling of household, business and commercial waste
    by 2030 as a minimum target, as part of an overall strategy to work towards a future without incineration based on as much reuse and recycling as possible.
  2. To evaluate what increases in the council’s budget are needed towards recycling infrastructure and operations to achieve this target, knowing that residents are positive about increasing recycling spending.
  3. To evaluate planning decision making procedures to ensure environmental justice and environmental racism is considered and taken into account.
  4. To improve communications and outreach to residents that food waste caddy’s are freely available and can be ordered through the council website, and consider a food waste caddy distribution programme.
  5. To increase access to communal food waste bins to flats and estates and other properties with communal bins to ensure full coverage of all properties within the council’s influence.
  6. In the specific case of Barnet and Enfield to evaluate which flats and estates and other properties with communal bins do not have access to communal dry recycling bins so as to ensure all properties have access.
  7. To carry out an outline business case evaluation for a local facility that can sort rubbish to extract as much as possible materials for recycling based on the latest technologies
  8. To carry out an outline business case evaluation for kerbside collections of all plastics in a separate bag or bin, with variants including a bag or bin for plastics, metals and drink cartons, also considering upcoming national legislative changes on waste and recycling collection.
  9. To further extend clothing collection services from home and evaluate a north London wide scheme for household clothing collections.
  10. To identify an organisation that is willing to officially support community composting schemes in north London and to support this organisation.
  11. To increase outreach efforts on the reusable nappy scheme to more parents across north London.
  12. To evaluate what possibilities there are to develop a system for compostable disposable nappies at an industrial composting site combined with nappy collection points at nurseries.
  13. To increase efforts in promoting north London’s reuse and recycling centres, as well as other routes for bulky waste collections.

Full report

Download the full report

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