Business recycling at five-year low

17 December 2018

Business recycling is at its lowest in five years, with just 880,000 tonnes of non household recycling collected by local authorities in England in 2017-18, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The figures reveal the amount of non household recycling has fallen by 5% on the previous year and is at its lowest since 2012-13, when 817,000 tonnes was recycled.

The government defines non household recycling as including “municipally collected materials for recycling from commercial sources”.

The figures for households are little better, with the recycling rate at 45.2% in 2017-18, up by just 0.3% on the previous year.

With English households accounting for more than four-fifths of the UK’s, at this rate of progress Britain will miss a target set by the EU to recycle at least 50% of waste generated by households by 2020.

Within the overall figures there is a wide variation in household waste recycling rates amongst individual local authorities, ranging from 14% in the London Borough of Newham to 64% in East Riding of Yorkshire Council in 2017-18.

And the amount of all local authority waste sent for recycling last year was 10.9m tonnes, 392,000 tonnes down on 2016-17.

Overall 42.4% of all local authority waste was sent for recycling in 2017-18 compared to 42.8 per cent in 2016-17.

David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of Suez recycling and recovery UK, said: “These annual recycling statistics show that the country has been languishing in the recycling doldrums for the past five years, after more than a decade of hard-won behavioural change.

“The lack of progress is a reflection of the challenges facing the global recycling market; cuts to consumer communication and the majority of domestic political activity being focused on other areas.”

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association's environment spokesman, said: “The best way to boost recycling rates is to prevent unrecyclable waste from entering the environment in the first place. Councils are keen to work with supermarkets and manufacturers so that they can switch to recyclable packaging where possible.”

He added there was no “one-size-fits-all” solution for waste collection and councils worked with householders to provide the best service possible.

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