More household waste was burnt than recycled in England last year

29th November 2019 | Recycling

Nearly half of all household waste in England was sent to the incinerator last year despite a government target to recycle more. Of the 22 million tonnes of waste produced in 2018, 11.2 million tonnes was burnt, according to the latest figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The amount recycled was 9.8 million tonnes – 44.7 per cent of all waste produced – several percentage points short of the government’s 50 per cent recycling target. “After failing to move forward for a long time, we’re now going backwards,” said Louise Edge, head of Greenpeace UK’s ocean plastics campaign.

Household waste

The recycling rate in 2018 was down by 300,000 tonnes on the previous year and more than 1 million tonnes below the 2016 recycling rate. The amount of waste sent to incinerators increased by 400,000 tonnes from 108 million to 11.2 million tonnes between 2017 and 2018. Defra says the amount of waste sent to incinerators helped to reduce the amount of waste that would have been sent to landfill.

A spokesperson said it was up to councils to manage their own resources and determine the bets way to manage waste for their communities. “Incineration currently plays a significant role in waste management in the UK but the amount of waste sent to recycling must be maximised ahead of incineration and landfill”.

Reflecting on the increased rate of incineration, Shlomo Dowen from the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) said it was “worrying to see further evidence of how incinerators get in the way of better recycling”. In its statistics Defra blames part of the drop in recycling rates on the “hot dry” summer reducing the amount of garden waste being recycled.

“This decrease was mainly due to a sharp decline in the amount of ‘other organics’ recycled in July to September 2018, which was down 16.7 per cent compared to the same period in 2017. This was due to the hot, dry weather experienced in this period, which stunted plant growth,” the report claims.

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