Warning as UK ‘set to fail’ on recycling rates

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THE UK is at risk of missing targets to recycle half of household waste by 2020 after the latest figures showed England’s recycling rates plateaued.

Recycling rates for waste from households alone in 2013 were 44.2 per cent, up only slightly from 2012’s figure of 44.1 per cent, official figures showed.

Figures from English local authorities for household waste and other municipal collections show an increase from 11 per cent in 2000/2001 to 43 per cent in 2011/2012 but only a slight increase in two years to 43.5 per cent in 2013/2014.

Industry chiefs warned the slowdown increased the risk the UK would miss its European Union target of recycling 50 per cent of household waste by the end of the decade, and fail to unlock the financial benefits of using resources more efficiently.

A Defra spokesman said: “We remain committed to recycling 50 per cent of our household waste by 2020 and continue to support local authorities’ efforts to promote recycling.

“We are also working with (waste reduction body) Wrap to see what more we can do and what further measures may be needed to achieve this.”

But David Palmer-Jones, of recycling company SITA UK, warned the risk of missing the EU target was increasing.

“The slight increase in annual recycling rates is largely a result of greater public participation in some key, heavily populated, urban local authorities, which have made significant improvements from a very low base by seizing the political initiative.

“England still has a long way to go and can look to Wales for inspiration where the latest annual figures show an average recycling rate nearing 55%.

“Welsh local authorities have introduced new systems to collect recyclate from households, using funding made available by the Welsh Government.

“We urge Defra to take ownership of resource policy and to then lead a joined-up approach across all Government departments.”

He added: “This is not about hitting targets for their own sake, but to ensure the UK as a whole unlocks the significant economic and social benefits that being more resource-efficient could deliver.”

Waste firm Biffa Municipal also raised concerns that the 50 per cent target would not be met. It welcomed the news that South Oxfordshire District Council - whose waste services it provides - had topped the table with a recycling rate 65.7 per cent,

In Yorkshire, Bradford and Calderdale recorded big increases in recycling. Calderdale’s hit 60 per cent and Bradford’s rose 30 per cent to nearly 52 per cent.

In Leeds, the figures showed a recycling rate of 43.6 per cent, a rise of 3.5 per cent on the previous year.

Leeds councillor Mark Dobson said: “We’ve increased our own recycling target by five per cent to 55 per cent and we want to do this by 2016, four years sooner than the national target. In addition, we’ve got longer term ambitions to exceed 60 per cent.

“The mix of services we’ve got – alternate weekly collections, recycling sites, food waste collections, bring sites, the recycling and energy recovery facility under construction at Cross Green which aims to add another five per cent – shows that we’ve got the determination to match the public’s appetite for recycling and we’re looking forward to becoming an exemplar city for the UK.”

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