Waste per person fell 3.1 per cent in England, but likely to miss interim 2028 target

Figures published by Defra show that residual waste arisings - excluding major mineral waste - reduced 558.8kg per person in 2022, following an unexpected rise in 2021. 

According to data published by Defra today (4 April), England is unlikely to hit the interim target set in the Government’s recent Environmental Improvement Plan of a 24 per cent reduction in residual waste per person by 2028 as measured against 2019 figures.

Graph showing trend of residual waste arising in England against targetsIn 2022, the estimated amount of residual waste, excluding major mineral wastes (predominantly waste from the construction and demolition sector), per person in England was 3.1 per cent lower than 2021 and 2.8 per cent lower than the baseline target of 2019 (574.8 kilograms per person).

The total amount of waste, excluding major mineral wastes, sent for disposal in 2022 fell to 31.9 million tonnes, a 2.2 per cent decrease, less than the per capita reduction due to England’s increasing population (estimated to have risen by 552,000 between 2021 and 2022).

Waste going to landfill continues to decline at a faster rate, from 238.0 kgs per person to 226.8 in 2022 (4.7%). However, the amount sent to incineration (including Energy from Waste) increased 7 per cent on the previous year, rising from 286.7 kilograms per person to 306.8 kilograms per person; an increase of 1.4 million tonnes to 17.5 million tonnes (8.7 per cent).

While the amount of waste sent to EfW rose, the quantity sent outside the UK for energy recovery fell from 2.8 million tonnes in 2021 to 1.4 million tonnes in 2022.

Overall, the level of permitted landfill capacity continues to fall, to 345.7 million cubic metres (less than half of the permitted space available in 2000/01).

Commenting on the data, Diane Crowe, Group Sustainability Director for Reconomy, said: “This data shines a spotlight on the amount of waste we are creating which cannot be recycled or reused and therefore must be sent to landfill or incineration.

“These methods both have negative consequences for the environment, so it is encouraging to see the amount of residual waste produced is falling. Likewise, there has been a notable downtick over the past few years in the amount of residual waste sent to landfill, damaging ambitions of a more circular economy.

“Waste generation is harmful as it loses the value of resources and ramps up pressure on finite natural resources. Ensuring materials and products remain in use for as long as possible maximises their value in the circular economy.

“The UK is clearly making good progress towards a more circular waste management model but there are powerful levers of change that the industry, working with [the] government, must begin to pull to accelerate this transition.”
Waste disposal

Municipal waste

Municipal residual waste (collected and managed by English local authorities) for 2022 stood at 464.8 kilograms, marking a slight reduction from the previous years: down 0.6 per cent from 467.4 kilograms in 2021, and 0.9 per cent from 468.8 kilograms in 2019. Despite the decrease in waste per person, the total amount of municipal residual waste in England actually saw a small rise, reaching 26.5 million tonnes in 2022. This was an increase of 0.4 per cent from the 26.4 million tonnes recorded in 2021 and a 0.7 per cent increase from the same figure in 2019.

In line with the shift in treatment method for waste overall, the quantity of municipal waste sent to landfills fell by 6.1 per cent, going from 176.3 kilograms per person to 165.5 kilograms, or in total volume terms, from 9.9 million tonnes to 9.5 million tonnes—a 4.7 per cent drop. In contrast, the amount of waste being incinerated, including energy recovery processes, saw a significant jump of 13.1 per cent per person, rising from 242.3 kilograms to 274.1 kilograms. This represents an increase from 13.6 million tonnes to 15.7 million tonnes, or 14.9 percent, indicating a growing reliance on incineration for waste management.

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