England hits rock bottom

21st December 2018 | Recycling

The latest household recycling statistics from Defra show that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are now ahead of England for the first time. England reported a slightly increased recycling rates of 45.2% for 2017 compared with 44.9% in 2016. These are the figures used to report against EU targets. The EU target is for the UK to recycle at least 50% of household waste by 2020. The 45.2% rate, which includes only waste from households, shows England’s contribution to the UK’s overall rates has inched forward by only 0.3 percentage points.

However, in the figures for local authority collected waste – which includes household plus other non-household waste by not incinerator bottom ash (IBA) – reported for the financial year 2017-18, the recycling rate was down by 0.4 percentage points.

England hits rock bottom

A Defra spokesperson said it was “encouraging” that the recycling rate in England had risen: “People are producing less waste, less of that waste is being sent to landfill and separate food waste collections are increasing. More councils than ever are now recycling more than half of all waste. The increases reported by councils such as Sutton, Stroud and Colchester show what can be achieved by offering residents a comprehensive waste collection service.”

But the industry was not convinced by Defra’s cheery tune, with many pointing out that China’s import restrictions in the first three months of 2018 have had an adverse effect. David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of Suez Recycling and Recovery UK, said the financial year 2017-18 figure “undermined” the reported increase.

“The addition of the extra three months coincides with the introduction of major recycling import restrictions by China, as the world’s largest market for recycled material, which does not bode well for the full figures for 2018. The lack of progress is a reflection of the challenges facing the global recycling market: cuts to consumer communication and perhaps consumer apathy and the majority of domestic consumer apathy and the majority of domestic political activity being focused on other areas in recent years”.

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