Northern Irish councils recycle less in first quarter of 2022

Northern Ireland’s recycling rate for waste collected by councils fell by 1.1% in the first quarter of 2022 when compared with the same period last year.

Northern Ireland recycling
The 11 Northern Irish councils sent 45.4% of the waste they collected in the first three months of 2022 for reuse, dry recycling or composting

The decrease in recycling comes as overall council waste arisings fell by 8.3% from last year, when people were spending more time at home because of Covid-19 restrictions (see letsrecycle.com story).

Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) published provisional statistics on local authority-collected municipal waste for the first quarter of 2022 yesterday (28 July).

The data shows Northern Ireland’s 11 councils collected 229,396 tonnes of waste between January and March.

The councils sent 45.4% of this waste for reuse, dry recycling or composting, Daera says, 1.1 % lower than the recycling rate for January to March 2021.

More than a quarter (27.7%) of the waste was sent for energy recovery and 25.2% was landfilled. The remaining unaccounted for 1.8% is “likely” to involve moisture or gaseous losses, Daera suggests.

All Daera’s figures are provisional and a fully validated annual report for 2021/22 is expected in November.

Recycling

Household waste, which includes material collected directly from households at the kerbside and material taken to civic amenity sites, accounted for 87.3% of all waste collected in the first three months of 2022. The remaining 12.7% was non-household waste such as rubble or soil and commercial and industrial waste.

Waste arisings in Northern Ireland from 2006/07 to 2021/22 (picture: Daera)

Since 2006/07, household waste has accounted for 86-90% of the total waste collected by councils each quarter, Daera says, “apart from April to June 2020 when Covid-19 restrictions resulted in a larger than normal proportion of household waste being collected.”

The recycling rate for household waste was 45.8%, lower than the 46.6% recorded during the same quarter of 2021.

Derry City & Strabane reported the largest decrease in their household recycling rate compared to January to March 2021 at 6.3 percentage points, Daera says, with a decrease in waste sent for dry recycling the largest contributing factor.

Five other councils reported decreases in their household recycling rates, whilst the rate increased in three council areas. The largest increases were recorded in Mid & East Antrim and Antrim & Newtownabbey, at 1.6 percentage points each.

In a report published alongside the figures, Daera said: “The longer-term trend for January to March saw a gradual reduction in waste arisings of 16.3% across six years, from a high of 251,488 tonnes between January and March 2007 to a low of 210,459 tonnes between the same three months of 2013.

“Since 2013, arisings have generally shown an increasing trend in the January to March quarters.”

Landfill

Meanwhile, the councils sent more than a quarter (27.7%) of waste arisings for energy recovery in January to March 2022, higher than the 25.7% reported in the first three months of 2021 and an increase from the 1.2% rate during the same quarter in 2010.

The landfill rate for waste collected by councils was 25.2% in January to March 2022, a fall from 76.5% in January to March 2007 but a similar rate to that recorded during January to March 2021. The landfill rate for household waste was 25%.

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