Recycling in London to get pounds 35m help

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The Government will today announce a multi-million-pound grant to boost recycling. The plan is that three years from now the great majority of Londoners will be served by door-to-door collection schemes for waste cans, paper and glass and plastic bottles.

The rapid expansion of recycling should create 1,500 jobs, drastically reduce litter and bring recycling industries into the capital. There are plans for a paper mill using local waste paper, a plastics processing plant and a facility in Hackney which would each year dismantle hundreds of thousands of scrapped computers, which contain small quantities of precious metals.

The strategy comes from a consortium of businesses and almost all of London's 33 boroughs. It has been worked up with support from the Government and its Environment Agency. The boroughs have bid for pounds 35m of City Challenge cash to be spent over the next three years, pounds 10m in the first year. Today, the Secretary of State for the Environment, John Gummer, who has followed the bid closely, will grant a large part of what they want.

Nicky Gavron, a Haringey councillor, said: "This is about creating jobs in London, bringing in the industries of the future and greening the capital using a partnership between the boroughs, government and business." She co-chaired the consortium with the former Grand Metropolitan chairman Lord Sheppard of Didgemere.

Recycling has been growing fast in London but it still stands at only 7 per cent of the 3.4 million tons of waste pouring out of the capital each year. Most goes to landfill tips in other counties, but this is becoming more expensive as the dumps fill up, more distant replacements have to be found and the landfill tax introduced two months ago starts to bite.

London has Europe's largest recycling resource. But the 7 per cent collected almost all goes outside the capital for processing. For instance, much of the paper goes to a huge new newsprint mill near Maidstone in Kent.

The plan is to raise the amount of materials being collected by recycling from 200,000 tons a year to 500,000 by March in 2000. To achieve that, 30 of the boroughs will have "multi- material kerbside collection" for household plastic and glass bottles, cans and waste paper.

The consortium also wants to increase composting of garden waste, vegetable peelings andbread six-fold in three years, to 200,000 tons. It foresees 40 per cent of homes with gardens having a compost bin, compared with 10 per cent now.

Robin Murray, a consultant who has done most of the detailed preparation on the scheme, said recycling's greatest pitfall was "booms and busts", in which those who build up collections suddenly find the market saturated. "The all-important thing is to build up the supply and demand simultaneously and give both sides of the market long-term confidence," he said.

Since 1990, the Government's target has been for 25 per cent of household refuse to be recycled by 2000. Bath and Richmond, in south-west London, already achieve that, but it looks unlikely that most councils will hit the target. Several London boroughs, including Islington, recycle less than 3 per cent.