Space of waste


Two members of Wanstead Climate Action won a visit to the Jenkins Lane Reuse and Recycling facility in April. The litter-strewn approach gave a dystopian glimpse into our world of waste, says Diane Molloy

Waste in Redbridge (along with that from Newham, Barking and Dagenham and Havering) is managed by the East London Waste Authority. Waste management company Renewi will operate the Jenkins plant until 2027, when the contract is up for renewal, after a 25-year tenure.

Close to the North Circular, the River Roding and the Beckton Creekside Nature Reserve, Jenkins Lane swallows the 22 million bags of rubbish that Redbridge residents dispose of annually. Redbridge holds the not-so-auspicious position of producing the fifth-highest amount of rubbish in England, with a 30.5 % recycling rate, well below the 44% national average. The rate has improved from 24% since the introduction of wheelie bins (according to Redbridge Council data).

Sorted household recycling is sent to the Ilford Recycling Centre. The remaining unsorted rubbish and street bin collections are brought to Jenkins Lane. The volume of rubbish arriving at the facility daily is staggering to behold. Convoys of trucks, loaded with the contents of street bins and the scourge that is fly-tipping, empty their contents into vast spaces comparable to aircraft hangers. Operatives dig out what can be recycled akin to a skilled claw-machine master in an amusement arcade. Household waste, non-recyclable plastic, plastic residents haven’t attempted to recycle, batteries, you name it, it’s in there. Mixed in with food, it is deposited into an even vaster space. Think Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern – only with flies. This waste undergoes mechanical biological treatment, which reduces the volume of waste by about a third by drying it out, and produces refuse-derived fuel that can be used to replace fossil fuels in the generation of energy.

Some 50% of waste in Redbridge is food, making it clear why the Our Streets team are encouraging composting and food waste reduction so vehemently. Education is key to reducing what ends up here. Ultimately, it is clear: we buy too much and waste too much.

Martin Dorey of 2-Minute Beach Clean, posted on social media recently: “We are still fighting the plastic menace. The oil industry is still pumping it out. And now, more than ever, we are making the connection between climate and plastic. Climate is oil is plastic.”

Wanstead Village councillor Jo Blackman, Cabinet Member for Environment and Civic Pride, said: “Reducing household food waste is a great way to both help the environment and save money. And all households with a garden should try composting, which can provide free compost from raw fruit and veg leftovers mixed with cardboard. The council’s website has links to reduced-price bins and tips on reducing waste.”

For more information about the waste and recycling process, visit wnstd.com/wrp

For more information about Wanstead Climate Action, visit wnstd.com/climate