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Waste collection and recycling

This page is an introduction to how waste from churches and homes can be dealt with in an efficient and environmentally-friendly manner.


The UK is increasing the amount of waste it produces year on year.

Camden Council has estimated that the Borough of Camden alone produces about 100,000 tonnes of waste annually.

The majority of this waste is either incinerated or ends up on landfill sites. The UK’s landfill sites are rapidly filling up, especially around London. Those around London are now actually full.

So the quantity of waste we send to landfill needs to be reduced drastically – there is little or no new space for more sites.

Plastic waste

Plastic and packaging – especially single use plastics – need to be slashed. The ‘great Pacific garbage patch’ has become notorious in recent years.

Actually it’s not just in the Pacific anymore, if it ever was. Plastic waste, and lots of other unmentionables produced by us, are everywhere in the seas and oceans. We are all implicated in this; indeed we are eating it with our seafood. It needs to be halted at source.

The government of China has done us a favour by refusing to accept our rubbish. But there are other countries such as Malaysia where it is still being sent. Check with your Council or private contractor. We need to deal with it here, responsibly, in the UK.

Above all, we must not litter. What is dropped on the road may be washed down the drains. It may overflow into the river in a storm, then it’s on its way to the sea. Litter on the beaches is especially pernicious.

In 2018, the Diocese of London joined in the Church of England’s Lent Plastic Challenge. We should apply the same lessons all year.

See also Landscape Oceans and Humans.


The GLA has campaigned to raise awareness of the need not to drop wet wipes, nappies or other sanitary products down the drain or the toilet. This adds to fatbergs, those immense and obscene blockages that have to be cleared out by Thames Water.

Not to be too delicate, only pee, poo and toilet paper should go down the loo. Anything else should be binned.

Only soap and water should be washed down the sink, bath or washbasin. Food and fat should be scraped out, and binned for food recycling.

Incentives to recycling

Unfortunately, the government does not offer incentives for recycling of non-domestic waste.

This is the responsibility of individual businesses. Churches are classified as businesses for this purpose.

Nevertheless, some local authorities provide a service to churches, but not all. Some but not all may charge for it. Check with your Council, and be prepared to consider alternatives.

Waste collection and recycling companies

The First Mile and Paper Round are companies undertaking local collections of a comprehensive range of waste arisings, on a zero to landfill basis.

The First Mile now collects and recycles from London Diocesan House.

Domestic and non-domestic waste

Non-domestic waste accounts for a great majority of all waste. A large proportion of non-domestic waste is comprised of industrial waste and construction waste; both of these include much hazardous waste.

Churches with extension or reordering projects should consider that the waste generated by a single project may be more than all the other waste from the same church over several years. This should be considered at project planning stage. See Sustainable building.

See also the Waste and Recycling Advisory Programme (WRAP).

Dealing with our waste

We cannot throw things ‘away’ any more – if we ever could. There is no such place as ‘away’.

Much of our waste could be cut without having any impact on our quality of life. This can be done by following the three Rs of the ‘waste hierarchy’, which, in order of preference, are:

  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle.

Below are some simple, practical ways in which we can all play our part:


  • Only buy what is really needed;
  • Buy recycled and durable items. Even if initially more expensive, in the long term they should prove more economical. For example, reduce disposable cutlery or crockery for events;
  • Avoid buying products with too much packaging. London Bio-packaging and Keep Cup are among suitable companies and products;
  • Avoid disposable cleaning products. For example, use cotton cloths, not kitchen roll and install roller towels rather than using disposable paper;
  • The Cheeky Panda supply an attractive range of sustainable toilet tissues, made from natural bamboo;
  • Use email appropriately to reduce paper wastage. Remember to print (if necessary at all) on both sides of the paper. Hand notes can re-use the blank sides.


  • Repair, restore or adapt what you have – use your own DIY skills and those of friends and neighbours. With electrical equipment, seek professional help;
  • Donate unwanted items in good condition to charity shops; try to find a new home for old computers – there are charities who re-condition for use overseas;
  • Reuse products such as containers.


  • It is essential that we all recycle. In the end, raw materials will run out if we do not recycle! See Resources depletion and sustainability;
  • Recycling is a simple way of helping the environment every day. If your local authority does offer recycling, make sure your church participates;
  • Mark recycling points with all the items that are recyclable. Assign responsibility to someone for sorting, putting out for collection, or transporting to the recycling depot;
  • Compost flower, garden and kitchen waste;
  • Printer cartridges can be recycled through Oxfam, Action Aid or Rainforest Concern;
  • Have you considered recycling your water? See Conserving water in church and home.

More information

See Resources on the environment.

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