The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have released updated recycling figures for England this morning (15 December), showing that the country’s household recycling rate has fallen by 1.5%.
The official England ‘waste from households’ recycling rate for the period of 2020 and 2020/21 was 44.0 per cent in 2020, down 1.5 percentage points from 45.5 per cent in 2019.
Metal recovered and then recycled from waste that has been through incineration (IBA metal) added approximately 1.0 percentage points to the recycling rate in 2020, compared to 0.9 percentage points in 2019.
In 2020, total ‘waste from households’ increased to 22.6 million tonnes from 2019 when it was 22.1 million tonnes. This is equivalent to 399 kg per person, up from 392 kg per person in 2019, an increase of 1.8 per cent.
The amount of residual waste treated was 12.6 million tonnes, up from 12.0 million tonnes in 2019, an increase of 5.1 per cent.
The total amount of waste recycled decreased. In 2020, it was 9.9 million tonnes, down from 10.1 million tonnes in 2019. This was a decrease of 1.2 per cent.
The amount of dry material recycled in 2020 was 5.9 million tonnes down very slightly (by 7 thousand tonnes) on 2019.
While the amount of household waste thrown away by households went up by 5.1 per cent, it is also encouraging that the amount sent to landfill has gone down by 7 per cent compared to the previous year
The tonnage of separately collected food waste sent for recycling was 485 thousand tonnes, an increase of 11.0 per cent from 437 thousand tonnes in 2019.
‘Other organic’ waste sent for recycling was 3.6 million tonnes, a decrease of 164 thousand tonnes or 4.4 per cent on 2019.
The rolling 12-month ‘waste from households’ recycling rate was 43.8% at the end of March 2021. This is a decrease of 1.7 percentage points compared with the previous 12-month period. These figures include IBA metal.
Defra suggests the fall in recycling rate could attributed to the fact that over the periods COVID-19 restrictions some local authorities were unable to maintain collections of dry recyclate, some garden waste collections were suspended and there was ‘widespread closure of household waste recycling centres’.
“This disruption was due to staff shortages and the introduction of changes to working practice,” Defra said.
“The national lockdown and rules for the operation of some commercial enterprises had a significant impact on the generation of waste during this period. Lockdown restrictions eased through the summer and into the autumn of 2020. Local authorities and businesses acclimatised to working under lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result there was less disruption to waste collection operations during the remainder of 2020.
“Notably the second national lockdown commencing in November 2020 had less of an impact on waste and recycling tonnages reported in these statistics.”
The figures follow a similar trend for Scotland, which published its household recycling figures last week (8 December), with the SEPA stating COVID impacts ‘likely to be responsible’ for the 2.9 percentage point reduction.
‘Testament to councils’ hard work’
Responding to statistics on waste managed by local authorities in England in 2020/21, showing a reduction in waste sent to landfill and increase in food waste collection, Cllr Darren Rodwell, Local Government Association environment spokesperson, said: “These figures are testament to the hard work of councils in maintaining levels of recycling and diverting millions of tonnes of waste going to landfill, especially during the pressures of lockdown restrictions, and demonstrates that the current waste collection system is working well.
“In particular, it is great to see the work councils are doing with residents to increase correct food waste disposal, with food waste collections up by 11 per cent.
These figures are testament to the hard work of councils in maintaining levels of recycling and diverting millions of tonnes of waste going to landfill…
“While the amount of household waste thrown away by households went up by 5.1 per cent, it is also encouraging that the amount sent to landfill has gone down by 7 per cent compared to the previous year.
“Clearly there is more to be done to boost recycling to reach national targets and even higher standards. For this to happen, businesses and manufacturers need to build waste reduction and the reuse of packaging into their operations, and local authorities need certainty on the timetable for implementation of the full set of Defra’s reforms to waste and recycling. This includes the new extended producer responsibility scheme for packaging, and confirmation that charging for garden waste collection will remain a local decision.
“With more people working from home, councils want to continue to work with local communities to help them better understand and recycle even more.”