Partner Blog - PWLC - Markets, Rubbish, and Services Delivery Plans - Unintentional Sustainability

Would any one want a fairly large, noisy, smelly trash compactor sitting outside their business, or home? This is essentially the question we needed to ask businesses and residents when commissioned by Lambeth Council to project manage their Lower Marsh Regeneration Project in 2012. As part of the design, a trash compactor that sat directly on a piece of public realm that the Council wanted to develop needed to find a new home, but as the question might suggest an answer wasn't going to be simple. We tried, people objected. Lower Marsh did and still does generate a large volume of refuse because it holds a weekday and Saturday street market selling mostly hot food with a mix of delicious cakes, antiques, flowers and the like. The question became ‘how does one manage so much refuse?’ Lambeth's answer was 'feed it to the trash compactor!' After all, it only needed emptying 5 times a week - that's a good thing right?

Unfortunately for Lambeth no one on Lower Marsh really wanted it relocated anywhere near them, so we came to a solution with the Local Business Improvement District to identify sites for underground bins. These large subterranean bins hold 5t of refuse or recyclables in them, but just appear as a standard bin receptacle on the street. I'll spare you the boring / technical details of identifying spots but we found a willing participant on private land who was happy to take two of them in exchange for free refuse and recycling. A deal was brokered, the bins were installed as a part of the wider improvement works and we had a massive ribbon cutting event to celebrate it on Waterloo Carnival day dressing up as baboons, lions and gypsies.

We've come a fair way since 2012 and when we look back at Lower Marsh and the rationale for installing the bins, (essentially getting rid of an eyesore), it achieved and continues to achieve so much more than that. We knew it would help Lambeth to recycle more and we considered that it would contribute to reduced vehicle trips (and consequent carbon omissions) but certainly not to the significant extent that it has.

Retrospectively sustainable? No, we didn't set out to do environmental good, but some benefits have occurred and a lot more is needed. Poor air quality is one of the most formidable challenges of our generation and Cross River Partnership (CRP) are leading from the front to try and tackle this problem by coming up with innovative ways to improve Air Quality across London.

Continuing in this vein of food, markets and rubbish we were then really excited in 2016 to be commissioned by CRP to undertake a Delivery Service Plan study across three London markets - not so much because we LOVE street market food but we also got to go back to our old friends at Lower Marsh, as well as East St Market in Southwark and Chapel Market in Islington to talk to hundreds of market traders and businesses about how they receive deliveries to their stalls or shops. Asking whether they would be interested in jointly procuring goods and services in order to reduce the amount of vehicle trips made into central London.

It was really encouraging to see traders and small businesses either express an interest, or note that they were already partaking in joint procurement through their existing relationships with each other or through a Business Improvement District. In one symbiotic example, a market trader used the refrigerator of a nearby shop to store their food products - saving them the hassle of having to regularly restock. In exchange for this, the market trader took on the name of the shop to help promote the business.

Traders and businesses were surprised when we commended them for their sustainability credentials - their sheepish grins said it all really - any sustainability angle was completely unintended. Unintentional Sustainability folks - they'll be telling their mates how much good they are doing for the environment now we reckon ????.

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