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Camden Council criticised for burning leaves

PUBLISHED: 11:12 19 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:33 07 September 2010

GOING green may be at the forefront of Camden Council s agenda – but the authority has come under fire from environmentalists for burning autumn leaves. It has been revealed that more than 100 tonnes of fallen leaves swept from Camden s street

Tan Parsons

GOING green may be at the forefront of Camden Council's agenda - but the authority has come under fire from environmentalists for burning autumn leaves.

It has been revealed that more than 100 tonnes of fallen leaves swept from Camden's streets are being sent to landfill sites or burned this autumn instead of being turned into compost because they are 'contaminated' by rubbish like cigarette butts.

The council says this is the first year leaves from the streets have not been recycled as a result of contamination, and that last year 100 tonnes of leaves were collected and recycled.

Green Party councillor for Highgate Maya De Souza was furious to discover the amount of leaves being buried or burned and called for urgent action to explore alternatives.

She said: "I'm extremely concerned to hear that our street leaves, which could provide a rich source of organic matter for our soils as well as energy, are either incinerated or placed in landfill.

"By putting them in landfill, they are a source of the most potent greenhouse gas, methane, and if incinerated they release carbon directly to the atmosphere."

She also called for recycling options to be combined with campaigns against littering and with lobbying the government to make sure waste regulations are not overly cautious.

She added: "It is a shame that the council, which emphasises its green credentials, has not addressed this issue as yet. I will be pursuing this matter with the current Tory-Liberal Democrat administration."

By comparison, in neighbouring Haringey leaves collected by the council's 'leafing crews' and street sweepers are all composted - and the same goes for the City of London, which governs Hampstead Heath, and the Royal Parks, which is responsible for maintaining Primrose Hill and Regent's Park.

A spokesman for Barnet Council said some leaves in the borough were considered contaminated and dumped along with normal waste, just as they are in Camden, but an exact figure was not available.

Camden's environment boss Cllr Chris Knight defended the council's recycling record.

He said it was the North London Waste Authority which made a judgement on the quality of leaves supplied by the council for recycling, and that it was down to residents to prevent littering and stop their dogs fouling the streets so leaves from the streets could be sent to make the highest grade of compost.

"Camden Council is at the forefront of recycling leaves for compost," he said. "All leaves collected from our parks are taken to a processing plant where they are composted. The high-quality product is used to grow food in borough projects, homes and farms. The council recycled 4,000 tonnes of green waste last year.

"We have recycled leaves from the borough's roads every year until this leafing season when concerns were raised about contamination levels. Camden is committed to increasing recycling and improving the quality of leaves collected for composting so that the service can be reinstated next year.

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