Waste from households’ annual rate of recycling only increases by 0.1%

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Date: 08th August 2014

The annual rate of recycling of ‘waste from households’ has only risen by 0.1% from 44.1% in 2012 to 44.2% in 2013, reported Defra this week in its ‘Provisional Statistics on waste managed by local authorities in England including October to December 2013’.

Other key points from the report include:

The quarterly rate of recycling of ‘waste from households’ reached 42.7% in October to December 2013, increasing from 41.5% in the same quarter in 2012.

Total ‘waste from households’ dropped 1.8% to 21.6 million tonnes in 2013. This is said to amount to 403kg per person.

Local authority managed waste to landfill and incineration fell by 5.2% in 2013.

Over 40% of recycling of ‘waste from households’ was organic waste comprising of separately collected food waste and other organics such as garden waste.

Separately collected food waste increased by 18.7% in 2013 while other organic waste (mainly garden waste) dropped by 6.0%. Dry recycling increased by 0.4% in 2013.

The quarterly rate of recycling of ‘waste from households’ reached 42.7% in October to December 2013, increasing from 41.5% in the same quarter in 2012.

Total ‘waste from households’ is reported to be falling slowly. It was 1.8% lower in 2013 at 21.6 million tonnes. This is estimated to amount to 403 kg per person.

The annual rate of disposal of ‘waste from households’ to landfill and incineration was 45.5% in the year to December 2013. It is declining steadily having been 54.5% over the 2010 calendar year.

Over the year to December 2013, 7.1 million tonnes of ‘waste from households’ went to landfill and 2.7 million tonnes to incineration.

Pete Dickson, development director, Biffa Municipa, told RWWl: “The near-static English recycling rate may be a concern to some, but isn’t a great surprise. After some years of consistent moving up, the country’s rate has almost plateaued – and it may not be easy to get the trend line up in the short to medium term.

“Recycling rates are likely to fall even if capture rates increase. There is a migration from glass to plastic packaging, an overall downsizing of all packaging types, and reduced paper consumption as we increasingly use tablets and e-readers for work and pleasure.

“This trend means that the emphasis should be on measuring and maximising capture rates rather than the more traditional recycling/composting percentages,” added Dickson.

“In terms of local authority KPIs, we suggest that the key measure should be the amount of residual waste collected per household. Local authorities and their service providers are more in control of this element than recycling percentages. It also has a far greater effect on waste reduction than percentage-based recycling targets, so would have greater impact on pushing waste up the hierarchy.”

“The future of the waste industry should be about maximising diversion through simple services and high capture rates, with a bias towards the waste hierarchy, whilst supporting the circular economy. The result should be best value, sustainable resource management,” continued the development director.