Resource Use

English recycling increases remain low

The amount of household waste recycled or composted in England in the first quarter of 2013/14 rose to 46.2 per cent, according to new figures from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

The ‘Local authority collected waste management statistics for England - Provisional results for quarter 1 2013/14’ show that householders recycled or composted a record amount of waste for that period.

Of the 22.7 million tonnes of household waste (i.e waste collected through ‘litter collection rounds’), 46.2 per cent was recycled or composted, 32 per cent was landfilled, and 20 per cent went for incineration with energy recovery. Indeed, councils incinerated 7.2 per cent more waste in April to June 2013 than in the same quarter in 2012.

Household dry recycling (which excludes organic waste) was three per cent higher in April to June 2013 than in the same period in 2012, while organic waste recycling rose by 1.7 per cent.

As well as increases in recycling, local authorities sent 1.3 per cent more waste to landfill or incineration in the first quarter of 2013/14 than the year before.

Recycling increases remain low

Despite the figures showing a quarterly high for recycling, the increases in recycling rates remain low. The figures show that the annual household recycling rate has remained much the same, growing by only 0.1 per cent in the 12 months to June 2013 (compared to the year up to March 2013).

This follows on from the news that in 2012/13, England saw its lowest recycling increase for the second time within the past two years, leading Defra to warn that if it remains at its current level, England’s recycling rate will be ‘insufficient’ to meet the EU’s target of recycling 50 per cent of household waste by 2020. (Despite these warnings , Defra has said that from April 2014, it will ‘step back’ on some of its waste policy work, due to budget cuts.)

It appears that these low increase rates are a UK-wide problem, as Scotland recycled 41.2 per cent of its household waste in 2012/13, only 1.1 per cent more than in 2011.

Wales remains the most proficient recycler in the UK with a 53 per cent household recycle rate and is the only nation in the UK that has surpassed the 50 per cent recycling rate mark.

Commenting on the stagnation of recycling rates, Rob Crumbie, Communications Director at recycling incentive company Greenredeem, said: “While we’re pleased to see today’s Defra results show that recycling rates are on the up, the increase is only very marginal. Instead, this quarter’s results continue to mirror the trend that we’ve seen over the last couple of years; recycling rates are stagnating and the UK is very unlikely to meet the 50 per cent EU target by 2020 if this continues”

From August 2014, Defra intends to present annual estimates for calendar years instead of financial years. The government department has also decided to stop producing quarterly regional estimates but continue to produce annual statistics by region and local authority, all from the WasteDataFlow portal.

Read the ‘Local authority collected waste management statistics for England - Provisional results for quarter 1 2013/14’.