Devon’s recycling rate falls after HWRCs close

Devon county council’s recycling rate fell by 1.3% to 55.3% in 2020/21, which the authority attributes to the closure of its household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) during the first lockdown.

The Sidmouth recycling centre, one of 19 HWRCs Suez operates on behalf of Devon county council

The figure was included in a report which went before the Devon Authorities Strategic Waste Committee on 14 October, and also said the average rate for Devon’s eight waste collection authorities in 2020/21 was 51.5%, a 0.5% increase on the previous year.

Written by Meg Booth, chief officer for highways, infrastructure development and waste, the report claims provisional data indicates Devon remains the country’s second highest performing waste disposal authority, “against a backdrop of reducing performance for other leading authorities”.

Devon county council is responsible for the disposal of all municipal household waste generated in the eight districts of Devon. It manages 19 HWRC sites via contractor Suez, with one site provided and managed by Devon Waste Management. The sites closed for seven weeks during the first lockdown in March 2020.

Ms Booth’s report reads: “Subsequent social distancing measures reducing site capacities, closure of the resale shops and the introduction of booking systems have also impacted on the amount of waste processed through these sites leading to a reduction in recycling performance.”

Though overall waste arisings in Devon increased by 3% in 2020/21, the material collected at the county’s HWRCs fell by 11,389 tonnes to 51,709 tonnes. The volume of organic waste fell most significantly, the report says, by 23%.

Devon county council represents a population of around 795,000.

Recycling rates

Ms Booth’s report also shows that the average recycling rate for Devon’s waste collection authorities in 2020/21 was 51.5%, a 0.5% increase on the previous year.

The recycling rates of the 10 councils in Devon in 2020/21 (source: Devon county council)

East Devon district council achieved the highest recycling rate of any at exactly 60%, while Exeter city council had the lowest at 27.8%.

Despite the low rate, Exeter achieved the greatest increase in recycling of any local authority in the county, at 1.7%. Ms Booth’s report attributes the rise to Covid-19 increasing household waste and recycling at bring banks and at the kerbside.

Several Devon councils’ recycling rates increased. Mid Devon district council’s rose to 53.7%, South Hams district council’s to 54.7%, Torridge district council’s to 55.2% and West Devon borough council’s to 55.2%.

North Devon and Teignbridge district councils’ rates fell, by 0.1% to 49.4% and 0.4% to 55.9% respectively.

The report showed a breakdown of the materials collected by the eight waste collection authorities (picture: Devon county council)


The Devon local authorities and Torbay council have worked in partnership for almost 30 years. Together they procure joint contracts for materials processing.

The work is overseen by the Devon Authorities Strategic Waste Committee, which has a member representing each of the eight district councils, the county council, and Torbay council.


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