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New pilot project by ReLondon increases recycling in blocks of flats in Lambeth by 152%

  • The introduction of food waste recycling, textiles and small electricals collections alongside refreshed recycling facilities on four Lambeth estates has led to a 152% increase in their average recycling rate, rising from 11% to 27%
  • Food waste collections have had an enthusiastic reception from residents, with an average of 35% of food waste being put into the recycling
  • Food thrown away in the residual waste has decreased by 45% across the estates
  • The estates have seen a 25% reduction in textiles appearing in the residual waste, as well as a 52% reduction in small electricals being thrown into residual waste bins

A new report presenting the results of pilots on four Lambeth estates, to explore new ways of increasing recycling from purpose-built flats, has shown that by adding food waste collections and refreshing and relaunching recycling facilities – including new textiles and small electricals collections – councils and housing providers can make a huge difference to local recycling rates.

The pilots, run by ReLondon in partnership with the London Borough of Lambeth and Peabody, and funded by the Ecosurety Exploration Fund and ReLondon, ran over 13 months from February 2021 to March 2022. The project findings have been welcomed by everyone involved, including residents who have told researchers that they were particularly happy to be able to recycle their food waste.

Despite the known barriers to recycling on London’s estates, the results have been transformational. Across the four estates, there has been an average 152% increase in the recycling rate, rising from a low baseline of 11% to a rate of 27%.  This was mainly driven by high food waste capture rates, in some cases comparable with those seen in local authority kerbside collections. But capture rates of all other dry materials also increased, helped by a series of communications to residents to ‘nudge’ them into thinking about what they could do to recycle more.

Building on ReLondon’s previous research and interventions on London’s estates, these pilots went much further, introducing food waste recycling and regular collections of used clothing by TRAID, and placing bright pink bins for small electrical items, as well as new bins for large cardboard packaging, alongside refreshed recycling and residual waste bins on all four estates.

The project kicked off with comprehensive baseline measurement of the amount and composition of recycling and residual waste, and the new services were launched with engaging, disruptive communications designed to stand out from the background noise of other estate notices, signage and leaflets.

Operationally, the new food waste service was introduced with innovative pedal-operated bins and kitchen caddies. All the waste streams were co-located to make it easier to recycle a range of materials all at once; and residual waste chutes were closed.

All the improvements were based on in-depth resident insights and were designed to make it easier for residents to recycle; to motivate them to recycle; and to improve their knowledge around what can and cannot be recycled.

The project report, ‘Making recycling work for people in flats 2.0’, makes a vital contribution towards helping boroughs achieve the Mayor of London’s targets for 50% of local authority-collected waste to be recycled by 2025; and 50% of household waste by 2030. It offers valuable, practical information to help those who commission, manage and deliver recycling and waste services to design them in a way that encourages residents to recycle more; and supports the Mayor’s target to halve food waste in the capital by 2030 as well as the requirement for boroughs to provide food waste services to flats wherever possible.

The report will be followed by an updated Flats Recycling Package toolkit in September 2022 for local authorities to use as they implement the Government’s collection and packaging reforms. This will be made available beyond Lambeth and London, to local authorities throughout the UK grappling with low recycling rates from flats.

Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy said:

This promising research shows that Londoners living in flats want to recycle more and are willing to do so if they’re provided with more opportunities. It’s particularly encouraging to see that up to 35% of food waste was recycled, which has been a long-term challenge in flats, and residents made the most of additional collection services for materials such as small electricals and textiles.

We welcome the findings from the pilots in Lambeth and will be encouraging boroughs to roll out the updated measures more widely across the capital through their Reduction and Recycling Plans. Improving recycling rates in flats is key to achieving the Mayor’s target for 50% of London’s household waste to be recycled by 2030 and supports our wider plans to make London a zero waste, net zero carbon city.

Wayne Hubbard, CEO of ReLondon, said:

The results of this project are genuinely impressive. The detailed waste composition results conducted before and after the pilots tell a compelling story: the residents on these estates are recycling more, in large part due to being given the opportunity to do so – which shows that Londoners really want to do the right thing and will do so when given the chance.

“The team in Lambeth have modelled what the potential impact is of rolling out these kinds of service improvements across all their estates, and it shows that they could potentially achieve a 5 percentage point increase in the borough-wide recycling rate, taking it up to 41%. So we’re delighted that the council has committed to rolling out the Flats Recycling Package across the borough, starting this year. This is the kind of intervention we need across the whole of London if we’re going to achieve the Mayor of London’s target of recycling 50% of household waste by 2025.

Gareth Morton, Discovery manager at Ecosurety, said:

We are delighted that this project we supported through the Ecosurety Exploration Fund has seen such excellent results. The outcomes prove that when awareness and support are created, and suitable tools are provided to make recycling easier, then waste reduction is possible.

“Hopefully, this report will serve as a blueprint to help other communities across the UK to introduce or improve their infrastructure and communication to flats residents and to boost their recycling rates.

James Glass, Peabody’s Head of Estate Services, said:

We are pleased to be working with Lambeth and ReLondon to make recycling easier for our customers, especially on our estates where historically it has proven to be a challenge. We want our customers to live more sustainably, supporting them to become more energy efficient and driving up recycling rates. This pilot project has given us some valuable insight into recycling on our estates which we hope will further inform our approach to recycling on more of our estates in the future.

Councillor Rezina Chowdhury, Cabinet Member for Sustainable Lambeth and Clean Air at Lambeth Council said:

The success we have seen over the past year as a result of our waste and recycling changes has been astonishing. I’d like to thank our partners ReLondon and Peabody, but most of all I would like to thank our residents who have adopted the changes with ease and made a real effort to recycle their waste correctly. Let’s keep going and continue to set higher standards within the waste and recycling sector.”


For more information, contact Ali Moore on 07732 681821 or at 

Editor’s notes:

  • ReLondon is a partnership of the Mayor of London and the London boroughs to improve waste and resource management and transform the city into a leading low carbon circular economy.
  • ReLondon’s team delivers tailored support to government, businesses and citizens. The organisation works to reduce waste, increase recycling and accelerate London’s transition to a low carbon circular economy by:
    • Empowering London’s boroughs and businesses by exploring, testing and proving transformative innovations with them
    • Advocating for policy or regulatory change
    • Encouraging behaviour change at all levels
  • ReLondon was established as a statutory Board under the Greater London Authority Act 2007 as the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB)
  • Find out more at:
  • Ecosurety is the market-leading compliance scheme committed to accelerating change towards an environmentally sustainable world. It ensures its members comply with the UK’s packaging, e-waste and batteries environmental regulations.
  • Through broad collaboration, it enables businesses to make sustainable product and packaging decisions. Ecosurety supports efficient and transparent investment in UK recycling projects through improved infrastructure, innovation and consumer awareness campaigns.
  • As the only B Corp certified compliance scheme in the UK, Ecosurety is committed to the balancing of profit with social and environmental performance.
  • In November 2019 Ecosurety launched the industry-first Exploration Fund – providing £1million of funding over three years for projects that offer tangible solutions to the negative effects that packaging, batteries and electronic waste have on the environment. The ReLondon pilot project was part of the 2020 Fund’s winners.
  • For more information, please visit
  • 160 years after it was established, Peabody is one of the oldest and largest not-for-profit housing associations in the UK. Following a merger with Catalyst in April 2022, the Peabody Group is responsible for over 104,000 homes and 220,000 customers across London and the Home Counties. We have 20,000 care and support customers.
  • Our new purpose is helping people flourish. We do this by providing great homes and services, by making a positive difference to the communities we serve and by providing an inclusive and inspiring place to work.

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