The Greater London Authority Bill currently going through Parliament contains some clauses with regards to waste and recycling which should give rise to concern amongst Londoners.
Amendments are now being put forward to the Bill to create a single London waste disposal authority headed up by the Mayor, not least as this option was or so I understood it – specifically rejected by the Government in proposing this Bill last July.
Recycling has been one of the biggest success stories in Central London over the past five years. But there is no cause for complacency these improvements must be maintained. Recycling is something that I have long felt passionate about and I led a parliamentary debate on this subject as long ago as October 2002. I look with great pride at the much improved record both in the City of Westminster and City of London in recent years although I am the first to recognise that it has been a number of non-Conservative authorities such as Haringey and Sutton that have played an important role in recycling initiatives for a decade or more.
It seems to be a classic example of a policy area where tremendous strides forward have been made at a local level in London in recent years. It is scant reward for improvement for this success and flair, that powers should be transferred to the Mayor not least as the most effective pathway forward in the areas of recycling and environmental policy is surely the promotion of public consciousness from the bottom up.
In my time as a Member of Parliament I have stressed the notion that recycling is and should remain a personal issue. I believe it requires the individual to make an effort, to make a choice. Leadership in environmental matters is vital but it still comes down to us as local residents to consider our actions constantly.
So it is my experience that the success of recycling links very strongly to the sense of community and belonging to one’s immediate environment. In the business world offices, shops and the like there seems to be much less enthusiasm to separate paper, plastic, glass etc than there is at home which is understandable.
In Westminster the initiatives amongst residents over the last few years has prompted a tremendous response but because Westminster has a high turnover of residents it is also a continuous and hard job keeping everybody up to the task. Whether in inner cities or rural areas it is us, the public, that can do so much more by being more considerate with our unwanted material.
I’m a great paper user because I write letters and handle personal correspondence by mail rather than e-mail. That is my way and I don’t apologise for that. But it is a miniscule amount of paper usage in comparison to just one document that can arrive from bodies like the GLA eulogising one of its current hot topics.
Few politicians can claim to have been in the vanguard of recycling but no one can doubt the importance of the issue for the 21st century. We all need to take a lead now before many more landfill sites will have to be dug in the countryside and more industrial incinerators built across all parts of our nation.
Good local authorities are exhorting local residents and businesses to recycle and we must remember that it is the individual who is so important in the battle. Keeping that enthusiasm at a local level is critical to maintain the progress in waste management and recycling that we see here in central London.
Restructuring London’s waste would divert resources and energy away from the work being undertaken by London’s boroughs to achieve more sustainable waste management. It would also require separating waste collection and disposal between different political bodies.
If we are to tackle the problems of recycling and reduce the need for landfill or incineration we need to inspire responsibility in people. Handing this important role to the Mayor of London would be the wrong way forward.