London’s (relatively) affluent standards of living for residents generate 4.4 million tons of household waste annually. London’s waste is collected daily by about 500 collection vehicles, barges, containers and other transporters. It is transported to 18 landfill sites, 2 incinerators, 23 recycling centres, 2 compost centres and 2 energy-from-waste plants. The volume easily exceeds the capacity of London’s landfill sites. 76% of London’s waste is transported out by road, rail or barge. Some sites are 120 km from the capital.
The biggest sites are Calvert in Buckinghamshire, Stewartby in Bedfordshire and Appleford in Oxfordshire. Calvert is a landfill site occupying a disused quarry. Clays are impermeable so toxins here are trapped. The site recieves 2,000 tons of waste a day from London. Methane extracted from the site fuels a small power station which generates energy for 4,000 homes. Solid waste is transported to 9 landfill sites around London.
Pollution can escape from landfill and also landfill contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. It also takes up land in an overcrowded area.
The capital’s waste is expected to increase to 6.5 million tons annually in 2020, largely because of the 800,000 people who are predicted to have arrived after the end of 2005.
One solution would be to extend recycling schemes and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. So far, London’s recycling record is poor, with 5 of the 12 lowest recycling records for the UK being within London. To achieve targets, London has to hextuple its levels of recycling.