6 August 2015 by Michael Holder

England’s recycling rate edges closer to 45%

The recycling, reuse and composting rate in England reached 44.8% in the 12 months to December 2014, with the latest figures showing a slight increase from the 44.2% rate the previous year.

Progress towards the 50% recycling target in England remains slow

Progress towards the 50% recycling target in England remains slow

According to Defra, which today (August 6) released data for the final quarter in 2014, the increase was driven by a rise in the volume of organic waste recycled, which was up 9.9% compared to the previous 12 months in 2013.

However, the latest quarterly local authority collection, treatment and disposal waste data released by Defra today (August 6) shows the recycling rate dropped to 42% during the October to December 2014 period, compared to 42.7% for the same quarter in 2013.

It means England continues to fall short of the statutory European Union target of recycling 50% of household waste by 2020 – a target which if missed could result in a fine from the European Commission.

Criticism was levelled at the government on general election day back in May when the previous quarterly figures were released, with calls coming from the waste industry for the new Conservative government to address England’s flat-lining recycling rates (see letsrecycle.com story).

Rory Stewart was subsequently appointed the new waste and recycling minister at Defra, and he last month set out an ambition for the UK to become the “best country in the world for recycling” (see letsrecycle.com story). However, no firm policies to this end have so far been announced.

Recycling rate graph August 2015

Landfill

But while overall progress to the 2020 target remains relatively slow, there are some positive signs in today’s figures, which show a 14.8% drop in the amount of waste sent to landfill in 2014 compared to 2013. Meanwhile, waste to incineration increase by 31.7%.

Overall, total disposal of waste to landfill and incineration was 1.1% lower in 2014 than during the same period in 2013.

Separately collected food waste recycling tonnages also increased by 7% in the 12 months to December 2014 compared to 2013, although food waste accounts for just 2.9% of total recycling.

Waste arisings

The data released today shows that total waste generated by households saw a year-on-year increase of 3.7% in the 12 months ending December 2014 to 22.4 million tonnes.

In addition, 2014 saw the tonnage of materials recycled, composted and prepared for reuse rise by 5.2% to 10 million tonnes compared to the previous year, while residual waste increase by 2.5% to 12.3 million tonnes over the same period.

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