Waste chutes were built into many post-war blocks to make it convenient for residents to dispose of their waste. At that time, households produced far less waste: most groceries weren’t pre-packaged, milk came in reusable glass bottles, and the waste that was produced was generally small and light.
Nowadays, food is pre-packaged, homes are full of consumer electronics and gadgets (most of which is delivered in bulky cardboard packaging) and it is easier to throw a t-shirt away and buy a new one for a few pounds than repair it.
But while Hackney residents are producing more waste each year, they are also recycling more than they used to – in 2002 Hackney only recycled 1% of its waste, now it’s over 25%.
The volume and type of waste that gets thrown down chutes also means they easily get blocked, the Council says – which spends about £75,000 each year on unblocking chutes.
To solve the problem of blocked chutes and make it easier for residents to recycle more, the Council has started closing down waste chutes and building new bin stores, with recycling and waste bins next to each other.
94 chute entrances have been blocked off at Milton Gardens Estate in Stoke Newington, and this year similar work will take place on Hoxton’s Geffyre Estate and Broadway House, near Broadway Market.
Cllr Feryal Demirci, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Transport and Parks, said: “Last year England’s recycling rate fell for the first time ever, so in Hackney we want to try and buck this worrying trend.
“We’ve seen a steady increase in recycling collected at the doorstep from houses and house conversions, but about half of our residents live on estates where there is a lot more to do to help people recycle more easily.
“Most estates were built long before recycling was available, so their 20th Century facilities don’t easily enable a 21st Century behaviour like recycling. Whilst chutes were a convenient way of disposing of small amounts of rubbish, they deter people from making the effort to recycle, and often get blocked, leading to rubbish being dumped on landings.
“These changes will enable residents to dispose of their waste and recycling at the same time, and the money saved from having to unblock chutes can be invested in supporting other services like cleaning, gardening and repairs.”