There has been a mixed reaction from across the waste industry to the figures released by Defra last week (November 28) which showed that England’s household recycling rate edged upwards.
As reported by letsrecycle.com on Thursday, November 27, England’s household waste recycling rate rose marginally by 0.3% to 45.1% in the 2018/19 financial year, compared to 44.8% in the previous period (see letsrecycle.com story).
And, the UK’s slow rate of growth has caused concern amongst national waste management companies. Treatment of garden waste, circular economy targets and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) were all flagged as areas that may need more attention.
However, others were more positive and pointed to increasing food waste and reducing amounts being landfilled.
The Chartered Institute of Waste Management (CIWM) expressed its unease at the figures. Head of policy Pat Jennings said that the figures “demonstrate the pressing need for significant policy changes”, before adding that the CIWM will call on the incoming government to ensure that their new Waste Prevention Programme is ambitious.
The Environmental Services Association (ESA) were more optimistic, saying that the rolling 12 month figures to April 2019 are slightly better but still admitted “disenchantment at their continued stagnation”.
SUEZ were also disappointed by the 2018/19 recycling rate, particularly at the slow growth of 0.3% from households in London.
“The slight fall in the official recycling rates last year reflects the urgent need for manufacturers to pay the full cost of recycling”, said CEO at SUEZ David Palmer-Jones, who will become group senior executive VP for Northern Europe next year.
However, he too maintained optimism in stating that “recycled food waste has increased, waste sent to landfill has fallen and residual
waste has decreased, reflecting ongoing efforts by councils, which is good news for the environment and consumers”.
From Veolia’s perspective, Richard Kirkman, the company’s chief technology and innovation officer, said: “In times of economic growth waste has reduced showing we are finally decoupling growth and waste. It’s good to see recycling figures are on the increase without any new incentives put in place over the last 10 years. That’s why DEFRA came forward in 2018/19 with the most progressive and exciting Resources and Waste strategy for a decade.”
Biffa also issued a comment and said it was “disappointed” with the figures.
A spokesperson said: “Biffa has consistently supported measures such as mandatory business waste and food waste recycling, consistency over core recycling materials, designing for recyclability, clear and unambiguous labelling, greater use of recycled content and phasing out of known problem materials like black plastic food trays and ‘compostable’ plastics. A new, supportive and ambitious national recycling policy programme will also help support more investment in recycling in the UK and reduce the reliance on export of some materials, but we cannot afford repeated delays and uncertainty”.
The Defra figures showed some improvement in the recycling figures at the local council level, but overall progress remains small.
East Riding of Yorkshire has retained its place as highest recycle rate for the third year running, recording a .3% increase to 64.8%.
East Riding council attributed their positive results to the targeting of some of their biggest contaminants with recycling campaigns, including holding amnesty events for textiles and electrical goods.
Lewes experienced the widest jump as their recycling rates sprang from 27% to 40%. The council put this down to “the complete overhaul of their waste and recycling system”, which, according to a spokesperson at the council, has created “month-on-month improvements” since its instigation.
The scheme was led by members of the in-house recycling team, who knew to update their waste management equipment and to step up communication with the community.
The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) had a strong stance on the reasons behind a slower rate of growth.
Lee Marshall, the committee’s chief executive, said: “The years of funding cuts have directly impacted on the ability to introduce new services. The worsening end markets and the lack of funding from producer responsibility are impeding further progress in recycling rates. “
Mr. Marshall also mentioned that the recycling figures themselves may be skewed by the garden waste collection numbers, as they are beholden to the weather so local councils do not actually have any control over them.
The full set of figures can be seen here.