A London borough that spends £111,000 a year to clear away tonnes of free newspapers from its streets has voted to make their owners clear up their own waste.
Westminster City Council, whose borough includes the West End and many of the city’s most famous landmarks, is to impose tight controls on the distribution of free newspapers on a voluntary and, if necessary, compulsory basis.
The council claims that as much as a quarter of all waste on the borough’s streets is discarded free newspapers, and mostly the city’s free evening papers: News International’s thelondonpaper, which distributes 500,000 each night, and Associated Newspapers’
London Lite which has a circulation of around 400,000. Both were launched in September last year. Associated’s morning paper Metro distributes 500,000 in the city.
Councillor Alan Bradley, cabinet member for street environment, who has been in negotiations with the publishers, said: “There can be no doubt of the seriousness of the problem. The fact that we are picking up 20 tonnes a week of these free newspapers from our streets is such a worry.
“They have already been contaminated [with other rubbish] and cannot be recycled, which is unacceptable.
Negotiations have been going on for many months now and it seems there is the chance of reaching an acceptable voluntary agreement and doing so within a reasonable timeframe.
“It really is time we got a grip on this problem – our residents and our businesses are fed up with the nuisance caused by newspapers on our streets.”
At first the council will seek to seal a voluntary agreement with newspaper publishers where they will pay for their own cleaning and recycling. But the council promised that if no voluntary agreement can be reached in a month, “it would have no choice other than to compel the freesheets by law to tackle their waste”.
Under the statutory regulation scheme, using the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, companies distributing any free literature in four main areas in the borough would then have to apply for a permit – at an undisclosed cost – for each individual newspaper vendor.
A council spokesman said that the fees “would not generate a profit”, but would pay towards recycling fees.
Anyone distributing without a permit could be fined up to £2,500.
The affected zones would be the land surrounding Embankment and Charing Cross tube stations, Victoria station and Oxford Circus.
Meanwhile, Metro, which launched in 1998, has not denied a report that it plans to increase circulation in London by 250,000.
Metro has a UK circulation of 1.1 million. The report of the circulation increase was carried on a website called Newspaper Innovation, which specialises in studying free newspapers.
A spokeswoman for Associated would only say that talks were “ongoing”, but did not deny the increase.