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Streets of London: Greedy London

From The Streets of London Malcolm Aitken

Greedy London

Londoners consume three times their fair share of the Earth’s resources according to a comprehensive report released yesterday, only days after the Johannesburg Conference on sustainable development.

The City Limits report, based on estimates of London’s resource use and disposal for the Year 2000 and the first of its kind, also states the capital would have to reduce its ecological footprint by 35 percent by 2020 to be sustainable, 85 percent by 2050.

An ecological footprint is defined is the land and water area required to support indefinitely the material standard of living of a human population, using prevailing technology. London’s is 293 times its actual size, about the size of Spain. The ecological footprint divided by the population-7.4 million in 2000-gives a per capita footprint of 6.63 global hectares. The sustainable per capita footprint is 2.18 global hectares.

Each person in London would require an area roughly equivalent to eight football pitches to provide for their current levels of consumption and waste, say consultants Best Foot Forward, which conducted the study in conjunction with the Greater London Authority and the Institution of Civil Engineers among others.

London also scored abysmally on eco-efficiency. Of the materials consumed during 2000, only 46.4 percent was consumed as food or remained in the economy, while the rest was discarded as waste. Eco-efficiency is measured by dividing a product or service value by its environmental influence.

Categorising resources: materials and waste weighed in at 44 percent, food at 41 percent, personal transport five and energy 10 percent. During 2000, 562 000 tonnes of food was wasted. Indicating a lack of environmental awareness and arguably sheer laziness and apathy, 69 percent of the 64 billion kilometres travelled in 2000 was by car. Moreover, 71 percent of household waste was land-filled, 20 percent incinerated and a mere nine percent recycled.

Other interesting statistics include the consumption of 94 million litres of mineral water per annum. A bottle of Evian, the top-selling brand, travels approximately 760 kilometres from the French Alps to the UK, according to Brita water filters.

In a serious indictment of the water sector, it transpires 28 percent of the water used in London is lost through leakage (239 000 mega litres), more than that used by the commerce and industry.

Nearly 41 million tonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) was generated.

Of the 883 000 tonnes of paper and card created in the commercial and industrial sectors, 42 000 tonnes was land-filled, versus 780 000 tonnes recycled. Conversely, 809 000 tonnes of household paper and card was land-filled, versus 152 000 recycled. About 202 tonnes of disposable nappies are thrown out each day: 1.7 million nappies.

According to statistics cited in the report, London’s per capita footprint is exceeded by New Zealand’s (about 9.5).

Scoop readers can view the report at

Malcolm Aitken is a freelance journalist based in London, England. He can be contacted at

© Scoop Media

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