Friends of the Earth steps into London papers pollution row

Environmental charity Friends of the Earth has spoken out against News International and Associated Newspapers over the amount of waste being created by free newspapers in London’s city centre.

And Westminster City Council issued a warning on Tuesday that it could ban the distribution of London Lite, thelondonpaper and other free newspapers under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, if they failed to help tackle the problem by funding more recycling bins. The council said it would not look to ban the paper across the entire borough but would initially focus on the most affected areas such as the West End.

Every day in the city thelondonpaper distributes 410,898 and London Lite distributes 400,692.

Senior waste and resources campaigner Mike Warhurst said: ‘These free newspapers need to take responsibility for the fact that they are handing out large numbers of newspapers on the street, and ensure they are helping to pay for recycling facilities. ‘The large contributors to the waste should contribute to the cost. You can’t just tell people to recycle, you have to provide the facilities.

‘If you landfill newspaper then it breaks down to produce methane. Some of that can be caught and converted into energy, but a lot of it goes up into the atmosphere where it is a powerful global warming gas. There is a very strong environmental argument for this.’Westminster City Council said it was not targeting Metro as it is not distributed in the street, nor City AM which distributes outside the ward.

London photographer Justin Canning has set up a website dedicated to highlighting the problem. He is hoping to create a collage of 1.5 million photographs of dumped newspapers sent in by Londoners, to represent the amount of papers distributed in the capital every day.

He said: ‘According to The Ecologist, 1.5 million papers are distributed in London every day. We are going to create a huge online collage which will be displayed at a gallery which will look like a landfill site.’Westminster Council cabinet member for street environment, councillor Alan Bradley, said: ‘There is now an established principle in environmental matters that the polluter pays. We are in negotiations with the publishers and are hopeful of reaching agreement with them both.’Representatives from thelondonpaper and London Lite said they are trying to negotiate a solution with the council.

After the papers launched in August, the council – which oversees most of central London – increased the number of recycling bins to 131.

But to cope with the volume of waste it estimates it would need an extra 300 bins at a cost of £500,000 in the first two years.

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