The best and worst performing local authorities in the newly-released Defra statistics for recycling in England have responded to their positioning in the league table.
Across the board, England saw a small 0.3% reduction in the overall recycling rate to 44.8% in the 2017/18 financial year, compared with 45.1% in the previous period.
However, despite 60% of local authorities reporting lower rates than last year, some reported improvements in performance.
East Riding of Yorkshire, which has again achieved the highest recycling rate in the UK, has praised its staff and residents for their efforts in achieving the results.
The unitary authority, which had a population of 334,000 in the 2011 Census, achieved a 64% according to the figures, which although slightly down from last year’s 65.4%, remains the best performing in England (see letsrecycle.com story).
Commenting on the achievement, Councillor Symon Fraser, East Riding of Yorkshire council’s portfolio holder for strategic asset management, housing and environment, said the council should be proud of its recycling growth.
“To achieve the highest recycling rate for two years running is a big achievement for the East Riding. Ten years ago we were in 214th place, so we have come a long way,” he explained.
Mr Fraser added: “We’ve always taken the view that it’s the residents and the council working together as a team to recycle as much waste as we possibly can – and that has proved to be a winning partnership.
“We also want to thank our dedicated waste and recycling team and our fantastic bin crews, who are out in the community in all weathers. Their efforts are very much appreciated by residents.”
Joining them on the podium was South Oxfordshire district council, which finished in joint second along with Rochford district council on 63%, remaining static from the previous year.
Commenting on the results, Cllr Caroline Newton, cabinet member for the environment at South Oxfordshire district council, took the time to praise the council’s contractor, Biffa.
She said: “We are delighted with these figures which show the successful combination of our promotion of recycling through events, social media and advertising plus the council and its contractor, Biffa, providing a service designed to make recycling easy. Judging by these figures residents have, once again, performed well and we appreciate their efforts.”
At the other end of the spectrum however, there was little change in recycling rates for both Newham and Westminster, the lowest performing authorities, both of which hail from London.
The two councils again sit bottom of the list, with 14% and 19% rates respectively.
A spokeswoman from Newham council pointed to a number of factors when explaining the result, which has remained largely the same from last year.
“Newham is a densely populated borough with a large number of flats, high levels of diversity, transience and relative deprivation, all of which are recognised factors in adversely affecting recycling rates. The borough also collects a relatively small amount of garden waste, which is a major contributor towards recycling in high-performing areas,” the spokeswoman said.
She added: “Contamination continues to be a problem, for which Newham has tried a number of innovative approaches, including door-to-door visits by a dedicated engagement team, advertising, marketing and direct engagement with residents via citizen assemblies.”
While also touching on small volumes of garden waste, Westminster city council cabinet member for environment and city management, Tim Mitchell, explained that they face a “unique challenge”.
“Our waste collection team faces a unique challenge, with nearly a million extra people coming into Westminster on an average weekday, the majority of the rubbish the council collects is from the thousands of businesses employing Londoners here and street litter, from our large tourist and visitor population,” he explained.
Cllr Mitchell added: “Waste figures are measured by tonnage, meaning Westminster’s lack of garden waste also significantly skews our figures, making it hard to directly compare us to the rest of the country, especially the rural areas that mainly top the recycling tables.”
Both councils added that despite the challenges, they will be working on ways to boost the rate in the coming years.