Defra releases UK statistics on waste



The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has released the UK’s statistics on waste from 2021.

The new 2021 data statistics show that the UK recycling rate for household waste, including Incinerator Bottom Ash metal (IBAm), was 44.6% in 2021, a small increase from 44.4% in 2020. The recycling rate for household waste increased in all UK countries in 2021 except Northern Ireland; for England it was 44.1%, 48.4% in Northern Ireland, 41.7% in Scotland and 56.7% in Wales.

Reacting to the statistics, a Defra spokesperson told Circular Online: “It’s imperative we recycle more of our waste and make the most of our finite and precious resources.

“These latest figures show we are making good progress, with the UK recycling rate for waste from households increasing to 44.6% in 2021, but we know there’s more to do.

“We are introducing major reforms to drive up recycling levels, step up our war on plastic pollution and tackle litter – from making manufacturers more responsible for the packaging they produce to introducing a deposit return scheme (DRS), building on our virgin plastic tax and bans on many single-use plastics.”

It’s imperative we recycle more of our waste and make the most of our finite and precious resources.

UK biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) sent to landfill increased to 6.8 million tonnes in 2021 from 6.1 million tonnes in 2020. Figures for 2021 also show that 63.2% of UK packaging waste was recycled, which was almost identical to 2020 (63.1%).

The UK government also estimate that the UK generated 40.4 million tonnes of commercial and industrial (C&I) waste in 2020, of which 33.8 million tonnes (84%) was generated in England. The latest estimates for England only, indicate that C&I waste generation was around 33.9 million tonnes in 2021.

The UK generated 222.2 million tonnes of total waste in 2018, with England responsible for 84% (187.3 million tonnes) of the UK total, according to the statistics.

Defra says the reporting period for some of the statistics coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic and the national lockdowns.

Household waste is currently defined by the Waste from Households (WfH) measure in the UK as the agreed harmonised way to report household recycling.

For packaging waste, the statistics show that paper and cardboard produced the highest amount of waste at 5.4 million tonnes and achieved a 70.6% recycling rate. Metal achieved the highest recycling rate at 76% followed by 73.6% for glass. 2,514 million tonnes of plastic waste was produced and achieved a 44.2% recycling rate.

This latest set of data again confirms the UK’s recycling rate has essentially flatlined.

Commenting on the release of the UK’s waste statistics, FCC Environment Operations Director, Steve Longdon, said: “This latest set of data again confirms the UK’s recycling rate has essentially flatlined, having stayed at around the 45% mark since 2015.

“If we are to meet the UK’s recycling target of 65% by 2035 both industry and local authorities require policy clarity from government on key measures, including such as consistent collections, extended producer responsibility, and the DRS, and how these policies will work together.

“Since the policies were first announced in the 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy, we have seen slow progress and constant delays, with a DRS now expected in 2025 and near radio silence on consistent household recycling collections.”

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