BY YANN TEAR
Politicians have raised fears that recycled waste from four London councils is being
illegally dumped in east Asian countries.
It comes after a BBC documentary, starring Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, exposed how recycled waste from across Britain has been shipped between companies before being dumped in huge mountains of rubbish in Malaysia.
At a town hall meeting on July 17, Hammersmith and Fulham council leader Stephen Cowan lashed out at the Western Riverside Waste Authority (WRWA), calling
WRWA is responsible for processing recycled waste collected from households by Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Wandsworth, and Lambeth.
The recycling is taken to a plant in Wandsworth operated by the private company Cory Riverside Energy, which is contracted by WRWA.
Both organisations were also the target of investigations by The Daily Telegraph, which reported in October 2018 that refuse bags from Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea were found at illegal dumps in Malaysia.
Earlier this year, the newspaper also reported that an undercover journalist, who visited the Cory plant in Wandsworth, had witnessed recycling being incorrectly processed so that it would be sent to an incinerator.
Speaking at Hammersmith Town Hall, Tory opposition leader, Councillor Andrew Brown, said: “The stories I have read in The Daily Telegraph really chimed with the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall documentary.
From what I understand they also found recycling bags from Hammersmith and Fulham.
“I think we really need to address some of the fundamental issues with WRWA.”
He added: “I think it’s ridiculous that we are incinerating so much of our rubbish, which is so harmful for the environment. Especially incinerating so much of our recyclable rubbish, according to what the investigation has uncovered.”
WRWA has said it shares these concerns, but does not believe the recycling that was found in Malaysia had passed through its plant.
It says 99 per cent of waste it received at the plant is recycled correctly. Cory said it has “robust processes” to ensure its recycled waste is processed responsibly.
About 24 per cent of household waste from Hammersmith and Fulham is sent for
recycling, council data shows. This was the fifth worst rating out of the 33 local authorities in Greater London. Kensington and Chelsea was seventh.
In response to Mr Brown, Mr Cowan told the meeting: “Western Riverside Waste Authority is a dreadful organisation who we are effectively in opposition with. There are problems with Western Riverside Waste Authority.”
A WRWA spokesman said: “The authority shares councillor Andrew Brown’s concerns.
“We are aware that a recycling sack from Hammersmith and Fulham was found on a Malaysian site last October but we genuinely do not believe that it passed through our facilities to get there.
“All our constituent councils distribute hundreds of thousands of sacks annually and we do know that they can find their way into commercial waste streams that we do not manage.
“Recyclable material is only sent to reprocessors in the UK or Europe.”
Cory chief executive Dougie Sutherland said: “We have robust processes in place to ensure that our recycling partners handle the waste we send them in a responsible manner.
This includes contractual obligations that no recyclable waste should go to landfill or be sent outside Europe ― this includes Malaysia.
We regularly carry out due diligence checks on all our partners to ensure they are complying with these obligations.
We have rejected contractors who do not meet these standards in the past and will continue to do so”.
Councillor Cem Kemahli, the lead member for the environment at Kensington and Chelsea council, said: “Nothing in the way we process our recycling explains why our bags appeared in the Malaysia last year. I visited the WRWA facility to check and see how our waste is handled.
“Residents also need to be confident their recycling is being dealt with responsibly and safely.”