Resource Use

More information on what happens to recycling would increase participation

Knowing what happens to recycling once it’s been collected and what it is used to make is a growing motivation for participation in council recycling services, especially for those under the age of 35, according to research commissioned by the Resource Association (RA).

The polling of 1,771 people from across England during June this year, carried out by ICM Unlimited, found that 77 per cent don’t know where their recycling goes once it has been collected.

As for what type of products their recycled materials are used to make, 60 per cent couldn’t say what any of their recycling was turned into, down from 65 per cent in a similar poll carried out by the RA in 2012.

After a period of rapid progression, the rate of recycling in England has stalled in the past few years, and is currently struggling to pull itself above 45 per cent, even registering a fall in June 2015. At a public inquiry held by the Environmental Audit Committee last week, Chair Mary Creagh suggested that the rate could fall back again in the coming year, leaving the UK far from the 50 per cent target set by the EU for 2020.

Results of the survey suggest that while many in England don’t know what happens to their recycling, being given a better idea would motivate them to recycle more diligently and consistently.

Two-thirds of the survey’s respondents said that more information about the end destinations of their recycling should be available for householders, and 44 per cent said that if they had more of an idea of where their recycling collections were taken and what they were used for they would be more or much more likely to recycle.

This was especially true of younger respondents aged 18-34, of whom 57 per cent said more information would encourage them to recycle more actively.

Reflecting on the results, RA Chief Executive Ray Georgeson said: “Better information and transparency is a low-cost intervention [that] has the potential to significantly uplift recycling rates by being more directly informative about what actually happens and where it goes, and reducing the potential for public inaction through disinterest or even cynicism about the result of their recycling collection efforts. 

“This is especially true of younger people who indicate clearly their interest in better information, and yet are often the least committed recyclers.”

More information on what happens to recycling would increase participation

‘Straightforward, low-cost intervention’ could ignite move towards 50 per cent rate

Following the last RA report in 2012, the association, which promotes the UK reprocessing and recycling industry, published an End Destinations Charter, encouraging local authorities to provide publically-accessible information on the names and locations of the end destinations of recyclables collected from residents.

Some councils already publish the end destinations of their recycling, such as the Kent Resource Partnership, which published its fourth report in June. In it, the partnership detailed how 90 per cent of its household waste and recycling stays in the UK, with three-quarters being reprocessed in the county itself.

The report also highlighted that the partnership surpassed its recycling and composting target of 45 per cent a year ahead of schedule, while the amount of waste going to landfill fell by seven percentage points in the previous year.

Georgeson concluded: “The results of this research strengthen our view that much more must be done to improve public information on what happens to recycling and transparency on the end destinations of recycling. This has become even more important as local authorities struggle to maintain their recycling provision and strive towards the country’s 50 per cent recycling target.

“I believe government and local authorities can act quickly to address this, and I call again on all parts of the recycling supply chain to support councils wanting to provide better information to their residents. 

“If we are serious about still meeting the 50 per cent target, with this being such a straightforward, low-cost intervention to make, I defy anyone in the collection and sorting parts of our sector justifying continued resistance to the imperative of transparency and call again on local authorities, collection companies and others in the recycling supply chain to adopt our End Destinations of Recycling Charter and work together to capture this realisable prize – of more recycling with better information.”

More information about the End Destinations of Recycling Charter can be found on the Resource Association’s website.

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