Defra reports falling UK recycling rate

15th December 2016 | Recycling

Official figures reported by a Defra report falling recycling rates for waste recycling. This is the first time these figures have fallen. The data, published 15 December, shows combined recycling and composting rate for household waste stood at 44.3% in 2015. This is down from 44.9% recorded in 2014.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) noted, “This is the first time the rate has fallen since it began in 2010, though the figure still represents the second highest annual value on record.”

A fall in organic waste for composting is thought to have contributed to a drop in the UK’s recycling rate according to Defra. There is a suggestion that a higher temperature and level of rainfall in 2014 having contributed to a greater tonnage of green waste having been available for composting than in 2015.


The figure is likely to cause alarm within the Department, with the UK struggling to reach 50% by 2020 target. This is the level the country is required to meet under the terms of the EU’s Waste Framework Directive.

Last year’s figures showed the recycling rate plateauing at around 45%. This latest figure will probably lead to calls for a renewed focus on recycling from government. A breakdown of the numbers shows the recycling rate in England and Northern Ireland falling, but Wales and Scotland rose.

Wales’ recycling rate is the best at 55.8%, up from 54.8% in 2014. England’s rate stood at 43.9%, down from 44.8% in 2014. Scotland and Northern Ireland both posted a 42% recycling rate for 2015.

Biodegradable waste to landfill has continued to reduce – reaching 7.7mtonnes in 2015, with around 20% of waste from local authorities being sent to landfill.

Total waste generation in the UK rose to 202.8m tonnes in 2014. This is an increase of 4.6% from 2012. This is primarily due to increased generation from construction, demolition and excavation activities.

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