However South Oxfordshire has retained the top spot for a third year running, with the authority achieving a combined recycling, composting and reuse rate of 66.6%. The council was tipped to come top in letsrecycle.com’s exclusive survey earlier this year.
The local authority statistics show how collection authorities in England have performed on dry recycling, composting of green waste and reuse between April 2015 and March 2016.
The data has been published at the same time as the UK overall recycling rate for 2015 – which has fallen for the first time in five years. England achieved a recycling rate of 43.9% – a 0.6% decline on the previous 12 months (see letsrecycle.com story).
East Riding of Yorkshire council made some of the largest gains this year, jumping from a recycling rate of 57.5% in 2014/15 to 66.1% in 2015/6.
The council collects its dry recyclables and mixed food and green waste in-house, with paper, cardboard, cans, glass and plastics collected commingled from a blue wheeled bin. The recyclables are processed by Biffa at its Aldridge materials recycling facility (MRF), while organic waste is sent to J&B Recycling and Biowise’s new in-vessel composting plant near Hull.
The council claims that the new recycling contract has allowed it to extract more materials before the residual element is turned into refuse-derived fuel (RDF). The council has also implemented a bin tagging trial reminding residents to put food waste in their brown bins.
Councillor Symon Fraser, East Riding of Yorkshire council’s portfolio holder for asset management, housing and environment, said: “I want to pay tribute to the amazing work our residents do in recycling their waste.
“As a council we put the systems and facilities in place, but the success is down to the people of the East Riding for really getting behind us and sorting their rubbish.
“These figures are beyond our most optimistic expectations and are a fantastic achievement for the residents and the council’s hard working refuse, waste and recycling staff.”
The Oxfordshire authorities once again dominated the table, with South Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse and West Oxfordshire all exceeding 60% recycling.
However, South Oxfordshire’s rate is actually lower than last year when it reached 67.3%, while neighbouring authority Vale of White Horse has also seen a drop.
The collection contracts for these authorities are operated by Biffa, which has also seen two additional councils – Surrey Heath borough council and Stratford-on-Avon district council – achieve top ten places in England.
Commenting on the overall figures, Roger Edwards, managing director of Biffa, said: “While we are very proud that Biffa has helped some authorities to achieve league-leading recycling rates of close to 70%, the harsh truth is that far too many councils are in the 30% recycling zone or even lower.”
He added: “It’s well-documented that England’s recycling rate has stalled. I attribute this to greater focus on quality, closer scrutiny of ‘dry’ household recyclables at the point of collection, and increased rejection because of contamination.
“We should all work harder to ensure that household recyclables such as paper, card, plastics, and metal and glass containers are as clean as possible when put out for collection, and that they aren’t adulterated. Contamination can cause entire lorry-loads of recyclables to be rejected, at high cost to already-stretched councils.”
Elsewhere, the Greater Manchester collection authorities continued to show the highest performance in English urban recycling, with both Trafford and Stockport achieving top ten positions at 60.4% and 59.4% respectively.
Other boroughs in the city continued to see a boost in their recycling rates, with Rochdale climbing 33.4% to 40% and Tameside leaping from 40% to 48.6% in the space of 12 months. Both councils have made changes to their collections, with Rochdale rolling out three-weekly residual waste collections in October 2015 and Tameside rolling out slim residual bins in July 2015.
Other cities did not fare as well. In the south, Brighton continued to show a decline, falling from 25.2% to 24.6%, and Portsmouth and Southampton plateaued at around 23% and 27% respectively.
In the Midlands, Birmingham city council – the largest urban authority in the country – fell four percentage points from 26.6% to 22%, while the lowest recycling authority was the London borough of Newham with just 14.7% of household waste recycled.
But one of the worst declines in recycling this year was recorded by Calderdale metropolitan council in Yorkshire, which fell from 60.4% to 46%. In September, the council explained its predicted 14% fall on a “perfect storm” of flooding and the introduction of charging for green waste collections.