18 July 2018 by Elizabeth Slow

Garden waste volumes drop following dry spell

Organics recyclers across the country are reporting reductions in garden waste tonnages as a result of the prolonged period of dry weather over the summer.

The situation is also impacting local authorities who fear the drop in garden waste volumes could have a “significant effect” on recycling performance.


Daniel Roberts, waste management officer at South Staffordshire council, said over the last four weeks the authority has seen a 20% reduction in garden waste tonnages as a result of the “prolonged drought”.

The drop in garden waste volumes could have “a significant effect on contract operations and recycling performance”

Daniel Roberts
South Staffordshire council

Last week, 190 tonnes of garden waste were collected whereas usually around 400 tonnes are expected in July, he explained.

Mr Roberts said that 190 tonnes for July is “unheard of” and that this is likely to have “a significant effect on contract operations and recycling performance”.

More than half of material recycled, reused or composted in South Staffordshire comes from garden waste, and Mr Roberts said this is “quite reflective of many semi-rural authorities”.

Despite the recent drop in volumes, up to 450 tonnes in a week have been collected in previous months.

The big challenge for local authorities is managing the “fluctuation” this creates, Mr Roberts said. “It’s not just the impact on tonnage but also on the collection efficiency.”

Met Office

Both England, and the UK as a whole, have seen lower levels of rainfall than expected for this time of year, according to the MET Office.  

When contacted by letsrecycle.com, Grahame Madge, spokesperson for the MET Office, confirmed that the UK has seen “significantly less” rainfall than expected for June and July.

A map comparing the amount of rainfall in June 2018 to the average rainfall for the month (Image: MET Office)

Across the UK in June there was 35.5mm which is “less than 50% of what we would expect,” Mr Madge said. The average expected rainfall for June across the UK is 73.4mm.

Meanwhile England has seen less than a quarter of expected rainfall at around 15mm.

“In some areas rainfall has been just 4% of what we would expect with just 2mm recorded in Dorset,” he said.

Provisional figures for July (up until July 15) show that the UK has received 7.3mm so far and 3.3mm just in England. This compares to 78.1mm of rainfall expected across the UK and 62.2mm for England.


One Dorset company feeling the effects of the low levels of rainfall is organic waste treatment firm Eco Sustainable Solutions.

Justin Dampney, operations director, said the dry weather is having a “big effect” on the tonnages of green waste which are down 10% for this time of year.

“It’s still coming in but nowhere near the volumes we would expect. We’re getting around 1,000 tonnes but we should expect double that,” he said.

However, Mr Dampney remained optimistic that this would not impact on business. “It’s just a cash flow thing and we have to hold tight. But we’re confident it will come good by the end of the year.”


In Durham, organics recycler A+E Thompson Composting Services is also noticing the impact of the prolonged period of dry weather.

Andrew Thompson, of A+E Thompson, said the company would typically receive two loads a day but currently only one load is coming into the site.

Organics recyclers are reporting a drop in garden waste tonnages as a result of the dry weather

He put this, in part, down to councils stopping workers from cutting grass over the past week, in parks and public areas. But, he added: “It’s just what happens when it gets dry.”

The dry weather can also make the composting process “a little bit harder” he said, as “bacteria need moisture to work effectively.”

However, Mr Thompson said other areas of the country had been more affected. And, after a recent shower of rain, he remarked, “the grass is starting to grow again”.


The issue affecting tonnages has even extended to organics recyclers in Scotland. One sector expert said he had seen “quite a drop-off” in green waste tonnages for Scottish facilities.

Despite seeing a “surge” in the amount of material in May/June when the weather initially started to improve, now tonnages are around 20% down, he said.

“We’ve had rain in the last week so we’re hoping things will pick up. It’s amazing how nature does rebalance.”


“In short yes it is inevitable that volumes will have decreased but given the vagaries of our climate, the weather will change.”

Jeremy Jacobs

Commenting on the dry spell, Jeremy Jacobs, technical director of the Renewable Energy Association said that he expects there will have been a “significant” drop in volumes of garden waste.

“As a keen gardener myself I have not had to cut my lawn now for a long time which is indicative of what is happening,” he said.

“On the more positive side, gardeners will be using more compost with garden centres being very busy with the good weather and I would have expected the demand for digestate to be firm given its nutrient benefits as well its ability to add moisture to the soil.

“In short yes it is inevitable that volumes will have decreased but given the vagaries of our climate, the weather will change.”


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