London Assembly environment committee adopts Charity Retail Association recommendation on waste recycling

For some time, the Charity Retail Association has been highlighting London’s problem with waste recycling. From 2015 to 2016, London’s average household waste recycling rate was 32 per cent. That compares rather miserably to the national average of 43 per cent. Things are also getting worse with recycling rates declining in each of the past three years.

We are, of course, a UK-wide organisation, but feel that there are particular improvements that the London authorities can make given that this is one of the regions of the country where councils are most likely to put up unhelpful barriers to charity retail.

  • Nearly half of London boroughs charge charity shops for disposing of the small amount of donated stock that they cannot sell. Across the UK the South West is the only region which comes close to this level.
  • 60 per cent of London boroughs do not grant any discretionary charitable rate relief to any of the charity shops in their area. By contrast, in Scotland this figure is less than 20 per cent.
  • Over 70 per cent of London boroughs do not have any kind of partnership with a local charity retail chain in order to reduce waste.

We believe that, if these unhelpful policies were reversed, and instead councils actively looked to partner with charity shops, London’s recycling rates could be significantly increased.

One example to follow can be found in Hertfordshire. The county council’s Harpenden recycling centre hosts a Sue Ryder shop from which they take a share of the profits. Around 20 per cent of the profits are taken by the county council, with the rest going to Sue Ryder. They sell items which are left at the recycling centre and so this also reduces the amount going to landfill. This is a successful operation, evidenced by the fact that it is now being extended to other sites in the county.

This is why we have been working to influence to the London Assembly’s Environment Committee. Last autumn, we attended the two major party conferences and met with members of the committee.  We also submitted evidence to the Committee’s investigation into recycling in the capital, which you can read here.

Today, the Committee’s final report – Wasting London’s Future – has been published.  It acknowledges the vital role our sector can play in saying: “Reuse is a familiar concept: for example, the UK’s charity shops diverted over 330,000 tonnes of textiles from landfill in 2017.”

More importantly, its Recommendation Four focuses on exactly this call and recommends that the Mayor of London does more to encourage councils to partner with charity shops on their waste sites.

Specifically, the Committee writes: “Partnerships between boroughs and charity retailers could be beneficial to both. Used goods are recirculated in the economy (often at low prices for local people) and the householder, the council or often both save on the costs of disposal. There is a great deal of scope to increase these partnerships across London’s 32 London borough. Councils can also support charities by not charging them to dispose of household items that cannot be sold or recycled, and by offering discretionary business rate relief.”

We hope that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, will accept this recommendation and help us to help London tackle its waste problem.

Matt Kelcher
Head of Policy and Research
Charity Retail Association