Resource Use

Annual English recycling rate up by just 0.6 per cent

Local authorities (LAs) in England recycled 44.8 per cent in the calendar year 2014, just 0.6 per cent up on the year before, provisional statistics from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs show.

According to the ‘Provisional Statistics on waste managed by local authorities in England including October to December 2014’, households generated 22.4 million tonnes of waste in the 12 months to December 2014, an increase of 3.7 per cent compared to the previous 12 months. Due to this, tonanges of material sent for recycling, reuse, or composting rate, as well as that sent for disposal/recovery increased, rising by 5.2 per cent (to 10 million tonnes) and 2.5 per cent (to 12.3 million tonne respectively). The latter was said to be largely due to a rise in bulky waste being disposed of at civic amenity sites.

The boost in recycling tonnages was largely driven to an increase in organics recycling (such as garden waste recycling), which rose by 9.9 per cent on 2013 rates. Separately collected food waste tonnages rose by seven per cent by Christmas 2014, however, food waste accounted for just 2.9 per cent of total recycling levels.

Dry recycling also increased, with householders recycling 2.2 per cent more by the end of December 2014 than they did the year before.

Although marginal gains were made on dry recycling, the amount of LA managed waste going to landfill dropped by 14.8 per cent, as councils increasing looked to waste incineration to deal with residual waste. The amount of waste sent for incineration increased by almost a third (31.7 per cent) on the year before, however, the combined amount of local authority managed waste disposed of to landfill and incineration fell by 1.1 per cent to 11.6 million tonnes in the 12 months to December 2014.

Concerns England may not reach 2020 target

From a quarterly analysis, recycling was down 0.7 per cent on the period October – December 2013, which was largely driven by a 5.2 per cent decrease in ‘other organics’ recycling (such as garden waste), due to ‘unsettled weather’ in that period. For October to December 2014 organics recycling made up 13.9 per cent of total recycling compared to 14.7 per cent in the same period in 2013.

The ‘stagnating’ of English recycling rates has been of increasing concern, with the rates rising by just 0.7 per cent in the last two years.

The plateauing of levels has led Defra to warn that, if recycling remain low, England’s recycling level will be ‘insufficient’ to meet the EU’s target of recycling 50 per cent of household waste by 2020. Despite these warnings, Defra ‘stepped back’ from some of its waste policy work in April 2014, due to budget cuts.

Find out more about England’s recycling rate for 2014.

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