The launch day of the Bow Quarter pilot in food waste collection, from left to right: Cllr Amina Ali, Cllr Rachel Blake, Estate Manager of The Bow Quarter Fred Faulkner, resident Liz Aitken and Cllr Marc Francis. Image provided by Liz Aitken.

Food waste was uncollected in Bow Quarter for weeks during August

 Residents of Bow Quarter were dismayed as Council fails to collect food waste in a successful recycling scheme for multi-story buildings.

Food waste went uncollected for over 700 households in the Bow Quarter this August, causing widespread frustration with Tower Hamlets Council’s recycling services.

Bow Quarter residents launched a pilot scheme to recycle food waste in 2021. It was initiated by Estate Manager Fred Faulker and resident Liz Aitken with support from local councillors for Bow East: Marc Francis, Amina Ali and Rachel Blake. 

‘Getting food waste out of refuse is important because it reduces landfill hugely’, Cllr Marc Francis explained, who described the recycling initiative in Bow Quarter as ‘a pilot to demonstrate food waste collections from flats can work.’ 

Recycling collection is simpler to collect when the council has street access to bins. The recycling pilot in Bow Quarter showed that food waste recycling can still occur for multi-storied buildings, many of which exist in boroughs of Inner City London such as Tower Hamlets.

Bow Quarter, the gated residential development on Fairfield Road that used to be the Bryant and May factory, contains 773 apartments all producing food waste. 

Since the pilot launched, each household in Bow Quarter has been equipped with a caddy bin, and an on-site shop providing biodegradable bags. Residents drop off their food waste at the half-a-dozen communal recycling points on the estate. Tower Hamlets Council has been collecting this food waste weekly on a Friday as a dedicated, special service since the launch of the pilot. 

The service had become popular. Aitken, commented: “Residents embraced it enthusiastically”.

Over this summer, the recycling programme has significantly suffered. In a tweet, Cllr Francis revealed that the 700 households in the Bow Quarter hadn’t seen their food waste collected throughout August.

In performance data published by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, an initially positive increase in household recycling has significantly declined. The final quarter of 2022/23 indicates a reduction in the recycling rate of 16.31% compared to 18.9% last year.

In November 2022, the mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman declared a ‘waste emergency for the borough’. Food waste recycling is essential in reducing harmful levels of landfill, highlighting the importance of Bow Quarter’s pilot.

In response to the council’s reduction in recycling collection services this summer, Councillor Francis suggests: 

“There is a lack of effective political management at the senior level”.

Tower Hamlets Council does provide an app for residents to report local issues to. The Find it Fix it app, previously called Love Your Neighbourhood, allows residents to report uncollected recycling and rubbish directly to the council. However, several readers have told us that the option to report missed collections on the app is not working.

For households in Bow Quarter, the future of recycling collection remains uncertain. Resident Aitken explains: 

‘I have spoken to the office and can confirm that the situation remains unresolved. Also, that rubbish collection in general at Bow Quarter has been patchy over the last few weeks.’

We asked Tower Hamlets Council for comment, but are still awaiting response. Their Twitter account, @TowerHamletsNow, tweeted on 8 September:

‘We are aware that there have been delays in waste collections. Our staff are working hard to clear the backlog and we hope to resume normal collections from Monday 4 September. We apologise for any inconvenience.’

If you found this article helpful, you might want to read Tower Hamlets Council cancels £17 million of funding for community projects.

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One thought on “Food waste was uncollected in Bow Quarter for weeks during August

  • Sorry but this barely concealed Labour party political ad you have published masquerading as journalism is frankly laughable and woefully inaccurate.

    It is an outright lie to say “each household in Bow Quarter has been equipped with a caddy bin” this simply did not happen.

    Caddies were only ever handed out by special request at the Estate Office some two years ago and from what I understand the take up was not great. Not because BQ residents don’t care about recycling or the environment, they do, but because it was just not known about. The whole food waste caddy pilot scheme has been incredibly poorly advertised. Apart from a solitary email back in 2021 there has been no proper communication with BQ residents about the scheme. If even a third of the current BQ residents know about or have a caddy in their flat I would be genuinely shocked. I only personally found out about the scheme by accident when I saw local Labour Party councillors boasting about it in a local election leaflet.

    It is simply not true to say the scheme has been in any way ‘successful’ and stooge Liz Aitken’s risible comments that “Residents embraced it enthusiastically” is utter nonsense.

    Refuse collection and recycling in TH is appalling under Lutfur Rahman, but it was just as bad, if not worse under Labour and indeed got significantly worse when they fell out with Veolia and decided to take refuse services ‘in house’. This pitiful attempt to rewrite history and pretend the food waste caddy pilot scheme has been some massive success is as false as it is embarrassing.


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