Northern Ireland invests £23m in local authority recycling

A resident deposits waste at a Household Waste Recycling Centre
Capital funding from DAERA will go in part to improve Household Waste Recycling Centres

Northern Ireland has announced a £23-million investment in order to boost its household waste recycling rate.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) announced the funding on 27 June, to come from the Household Waste Recycling Collaborative Change Programme - a source of funding available to local authorities in Northern Ireland over the next three years.

The money is available to councils for capital costs such as collection vehicles, bins and improvements to facilities like household waste recycling centres (HWRCs). DAERA has said that investment will focus on improving both the quality of material collected and the ease of collection and recycling.

David Small, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and Head of DAERA’s Environment, Marine and Fisheries Group, said that the new funding would bring the total investment in council recycling services up to “over £40 million” since 2010. The first tranche of funding from the Collaborative Change Programme is being released over 2019/20 and will be worth £5.9 million.

The name is reflective of the Welsh Collaborative Change Programme, which was launched in 2010/11 and provides support and funding for councils achieve higher recycling rates. The programme has been highly successful in maintaining Wales’s spot as the best recycling nation in the UK and the third best in the world. In Northern Ireland, the Collaborative Change Programme is aiming to help local authorities reach the EU WfH recycling target of 50 per cent by 2020.

The most recent UK Statistics on Waste, published in February 2019, revealed that Northern Ireland has overtaken England in household recycling rates for the first time, with a rise of three percentage points from 2016 to 2017, recycling 46.3 per cent of its waste from households (WfH) in the 2017 calendar year compared to England’s 45.2 per cent. For the 2017/18 financial year, Northern Ireland reported that 48.1 per cent of household waste was sent for recycling, composting and preparation for reuse.

In part, Northern Ireland’s recycling improvements have been put down to the rollout of mandatory separate collections of food waste - since April 2017 all councils have been required to offer a food waste service at the kerbside. Looking at the last three months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, the country’s recycling rate was up by five percentage points. With separate food waste collections mooted for England as part of the government’s Waste and Resources Strategy, a similar result could be on the cards.

Commenting on the funding announcement, Small said: “Both the public and our local councils have helped us make great progress in the amount we recycle and in doing so supported both our environment and local economy. We hope this latest investment will drive up recycling rates, improve the quality of the material recycled and reduce contamination to raise the value of recyclables and ensure a robust market access.

“There is still much to do in terms of reducing plastics and food waste and, ideally, preventing waste from occurring in the first place. Our environment is a precious and finite natural resource and we must do all we can by reusing or recycling materials to reduce the pressure on it.

“I am convinced that more can be done and that there is an appetite from the public to do more. This funding will provide new or improved services to make recycling more accessible and allow more materials to be recycled by the public.”

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