England’s ‘waste from households’ recycling rate has risen by 0.3 per cent to 45.1 per cent in 2018/19, though England appears certain to miss the EU target to recycle 50 per cent of waste generated by households by 2020.

The latest ‘Statistics on waste managed by local authorities in England in 2018/19’ from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), reveal that the total volume of waste from households across 2018/19 was 22.1 million tonnes, down 0.5 per cent from 22.2 million tonnes in 2017/18. The amount of waste sent to recycling remained stable at 10 million tonnes.

Dry recycling, which includes Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA), increased by 0.6 per cent, whilst organic recycling fell by 0.5 per cent, remaining at 4.1 million tonnes. This decrease can be attributed to a 16.7 per cent decrease in ‘other organics’ recycled in July to September 2018, where hot and dry weather stunted plant growth.

Local authority collected waste
Total local authority managed waste – which consists of all waste from households, street sweepings, municipal parks and garden waste, beach cleansing waste and waste resulting from the clearance of fly-tipped materials – fell by 0.2 per cent to 25.6 million tonnes in 2018/19, though again this is likely to be a result of lower organic waste arising due to the hot summer of 2018.

According to Defra’s statistics,10.8 per cent of all local authority collected waste was sent to landfill in 2018/19, a reduction of 14.2 per cent from 2017/18.

With regard to incineration, the figures reveal that the amount of waste sent to energy-from-waste (EfW) facilities continues to rise, increasing by 3.4 per cent to 11.2 million tonnes. This means that 43.8 per cent of all local authority waste was incinerated in 2018/19.

Household waste recycling
This year’s most improved council, using the alternative ‘household waste’ measure, was Lewes District Council, which reported an increase of 13 percentage points from 27 per cent to 40 per cent. Torridge District Council and Croydon London Borough Council also reported significant increases, with their recycling rates rising 10 per cent and nine per cent respectively.

This broader definition of waste includes street bins, street sweepings, gully emptying, parks and grounds waste, soil and compost like output, separately collected healthcare waste and asbestos.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council has retained its position as the council sending the most household waste to recycling, with a recycling rate of 64.8 per cent. South Oxfordshire District Council reported a household waste recycling rate of 63.3 per cent, followed by Three Rivers District Council’s recycling rate of 63 per cent.

As with previous years, it was London boroughs that sent the least amount of household waste to recycling, with a total household waste recycling rate of 33.4 per cent. According to Defra, the recycling rates for built-up areas with high proportions of flats are low because residents may find it difficult to store waste for recycling and may not be producing organic or garden waste for collection.

Newham London Borough Council remains the worst-performing council, recycling just 17 per cent of its household waste in 2018/19, whilst Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council replaced Westminister as the council with the second-lowest household waste recycling rate (19 per cent).

Commenting on the statistics, Pat Jennings, Head of Policy, Knowledge and External Affairs at the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (CIWM), said: “There is little good news in the latest stats and overall they demonstrate the pressing need for the significant policy changes that have been the subject of discussion and consultation across the UK during the past 12 months.

“These should also be seen as just the starting point – the wider application of extended producer responsibility beyond packaging to other waste streams will also be critical, and far more attention must be focused on stepping up efforts to prevent waste and promote resource efficiency and productivity.

“CIWM will be calling on the incoming government in England to ensure that the new Waste Prevention Programme that is out soon is ambitious, with tangible policy measures and smart targets. It will also be engaging with all the UK governments as the July 2020 deadline for transposing the EU Circular Economy Package draws closer; continued legislatory alignment will be critical to driving change through product supply chains that operate at both a European and a global scale.”

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