Tower Hamlets has worst recycling rate in England

Rubbish piles up in Tower Hamlets when refuse workers went on strike last year (Jeremy Selwyn)
Rubbish piles up in Tower Hamlets when refuse workers went on strike last year (Jeremy Selwyn)

An East London borough has been named as having the lowest recycling rates in the country.

Tower Hamlets has the worst household recycling rates in England at just 17.7 per cent, according to research from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The figures also include tasks such as street sweeping, emptying drains, collecting waste from parks and grounds, and street bins, the Local Democracy Reporting Service found.

In contrast Bromley had the highest household recycling rates at 48.7 per cent in London, the DEFRA data shows.

Outside of the capital, Liverpool City Council had the lowest household recycling rate at 17.9 per cent, while South Oxfordshire had the highest household waste recycling rates at 61.6 per cent.

The Government says recycling rates for each local authority will differ depending on how heavily populated an area is, the kind of housing that exists there and how much organic or garden waste is collected.

DEFRA found that residents may find it difficult or may be unwilling to store waste for recycling in built-up areas with a higher number of flats, although they will not be producing garden waste for collection.

Tower Hamlets is the most densely populated area in England with 15,695 residents per square km.

A Tower Hamlets Council spokesperson said: "Tower Hamlets is faced with a number of challenges that make it unique and difficult to compare to the rest of the country.

“We have the fastest growing population and are the most densely populated place in England. Development is happening at a rapid pace."

The spokesperson said 9,000 new homes were built between 2019 and 2022, but the borough has struggled to keep up with providing enough recycling facilities and infrastructure.

They added: "Also, 88pc of our housing stock is flats and maisonettes. This is 32pc higher than the London average and 64pc higher than in England, meaning more of our residents have to share their recycling bins compared to the majority elsewhere who are responsible for their own bin.

"The sheer numbers of people, development not keeping pace with recycling demands, ageing housing stock, and shared facilities make recycling much more difficult.

"Add to that the thousands of visitors and workers that come to our borough every day and you can see it's challenging. These points are for context and not to make excuses.”

The council added that it was committed to delivering improvements over the next five years and Tower Hamlets is spending £2.1million on improving recycling facilities across more than 2,000 flats, as well as working on pilot programmes to improve recycling services for flats above shops and speaking with schools to encourage more of them to separate their food waste for recycling.

They said: "We need everyone in Tower Hamlets – residents, businesses and visitors alike – to do their bit by recycling properly, and together we can improve our rate."