Three Rivers confirmed as 2019/20 recycling champion

Three Rivers district council in Hertfordshire was officially the best local authority at recycling in 2019/20, figures published by Defra today (3 March) confirmed.

Recycling collections taking place in Three Rivers

The council’s household waste recycling rate rose from 63% in 2018/19 to 64.1%.

South Oxfordshire district council had the second highest recycling rate at 64%, while the champions of 2018/19, East Riding of Yorkshire council, completed the top three with a rate of 63.3%.

At the other end of the scale, Barrow-in-Furness recorded the lowest recycling rate in England in 2019/20 at 18.8%. The London borough of Newham at 20.3% and Westminster city council at 20.4% rounded off the bottom three.

The top 10 councils with the highest household waste recycling rates in England in 2019/20 (click to enlarge). Figures have been rounded by Defra to the nearest decimal point

Defra’s data shows the total household waste recycling, composting and reuse rate for English local authorities from April 2019 to March 2020. Figures have been rounded to the nearest decimal point.

The publication of the data was delayed twice by the Covid-19 pandemic, but the pandemic is thought to have had little impact on the figures themselves. Only the first couple of weeks of the first lockdown in March 2020 are included in the data.

The data confirms the prediction made by last week that the top three local authorities would be Three Rivers, South Oxfordshire and East Riding (see story). As league champions Three Rivers will now receive a prestigious trophy from this spring.

Three Rivers

This is the first time that Three Rivers has had the highest recycling rate, having only been in the top three for the first time in 2018/19. During the last five years Three Rivers has had an average recycling rate of 62%. Organic waste made up 52% of its total household recycling tonnage in 2019/20.

Recycling collections taking place in Three Rivers

Councillor Phil Williams is Three Rivers’ lead member for environmental services and sustainability. He said the council’s success was the result of its waste collection crews and staff working tirelessly to ensure bins were collected, avoiding contamination, and ensuring residents have the knowledge to recycle everything they could.

Cllr Williams said: “We are incredibly proud of our record as the top recycling authority in the whole of England. We would like to say a huge thank you to all of our residents who continue to reuse, compost, and recycle.

“Awareness is really growing among our residents of plastic waste, food waste, consumption, and their impact on the planet. People understand that waste prevention, as well as reusing, and recycling is more important than ever.

“Recycling means materials can be used for longer and reduces the amount of waste going to incineration or landfill, while composting garden and food waste also helps generate clean energy and fertiliser for local fields while reducing methane released in landfill.”

East Riding

East Riding topped the local authority recycling league table in 2018/19 with a rate of 64.8% (see story). This fell by 1.5% to 63.3% in 2019/20. This was still enough for East Riding to finish an admirable third. Organic waste made up 52.3% of its total household recycling tonnage. presented East Riding with a trophy for having the highest local authority recycling rate in England in 2018/19

Councillor Chris Matthews, East Riding of Yorkshire council’s portfolio holder for strategic property and infrastructure, said: “We are thrilled to again be recognised as one of the top performing recycling areas in the country. It’s a great credit to our collection crews but also our residents for getting behind our recycling schemes and keeping us towards the top of the leader board for so long.

“The challenge of recycling our household waste has increased over the past year with most residents spending much of their time at home. We’re really pleased to see how seriously our residents take recycling though and hopefully that will keep us towards the top of the table for many years to come.”

East Riding has been in the top three local authorities with the highest recycling rates in England since 2015/16. During the last five years it has an average recycling rate of 65%, Defra says.


At an individual local authority level, recycling rates ranged from 18.8% to 64.1% in 2019/20. There was less variation at a regional level.

Regional recycling rates compared between 2018/19 and 2019/20 (picture: Defra)

London had the lowest recycling rate in 2019/20 at 33.5%. The region with the highest rate was the South West, at 49.5%.

The region with the largest increase in its recycling rate was Yorkshire and the Humber, which saw a rise of 1.3%. All other regions had “modest” increases, Defra says, ranging from 0.1% to 0.6%, except for the South West which saw its rate fall by 0.6%.

Overall, a total of 11 authorities in England had recycling rates greater than 60%. Eighty-four authorities had recycling rates greater than 50%.

In 2019/20, Chelmsford borough council had the highest proportion of organic waste making up its total household recycling tonnage at 71%. Its overall rate was 46%.

Waste per person

According to Defra’s figures, the council of the Isles of Scilly collected the most household waste per person, at 621.3kg. The Isles of Scilly have an estimated population of around 2,150. The council’s recycling rate was 38.5% in 2020.

Rutland county council collected the second most at 504.9kg, while Cheshire East completed the top three by collecting 501.3kg per person.

The London borough of Camden collected the least household waste per person, at 216.7kg. Camden council represents an estimated population of more than 262,000. It had a recycling rate of just 25.9% in 2019/20.


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