The UK cannot rely on Wales to “pull us out of the doldrums” with regard EU recycling targets. This was the message from SUEZ CEO following the “gloomy” news that England’s recycling rate has fallen for the first time since modern records began.
Provisional figures released by the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) this week (22 March) show that the recycling rate for England has fallen for the in the 12 months to June 2015.
The “waste from households” recycling rate was 44.3% in the 12 months to June 2015, down from 45.0% in the previous 12 month period to June 2014.
“We cannot rely on Wales to pull us out of the doldrums. Short of Defra pulling the proverbial rabbit out of a hat, these latest figures suggest that the UK’s 2020 target of 50% is receding even further into the distance”
SUEZ CEO, David Palmer-Jones, however, says the reason is because residual waste has gone up.
“This is a weight game,” he says, “while local authority cut backs have reduced collections of green garden waste, households are not increasing significantly their weight of dry recyclables”.
He said budgetary pressures on local authorities will make it even more difficult to recover lost ground in the short time England has left until the UK is required by the European Commission to recycle 50% of its residual waste by 2020.
“England’s recycling statistics dominates the performance for the UK as a whole,” he says, “so we cannot rely on Wales to pull us out of the doldrums. Short of Defra pulling the proverbial rabbit out of a hat, these latest figures suggest that the UK’s 2020 target of 50% is receding even further into the distance.”
Faster And Further
Palmer-Jones said there has been no shortage of advice as to what Defra should do, but with time running out the window for implementing most of these options is closing fast, and it is now difficult to envisage any service fixes that would make up the lost ground.
“We need to move faster and further along our journey from a throw-away to a reuse and recycling-based society,” he says.
“The lesson from Wales is to engage central government in helping ring fence local authority environmental funding as part of a wider sustainability agenda.
“Greater focus is needed on capturing more dry recyclables – paper, card, plastic and glass – which make up the most economically and environmentally valuable component of recycling and where performance, unlike tonnage of garden waste collection, is affected less by seasonal variation and more directly reflects communication and engagement with households.
“Progress can also be made in improving recycling tonnages and rates by working with manufacturers of frequently used containers, such as plastic coffee cups and packaging for take-away food, to ensure materials can be more widely and efficiently recycled.
“Focus too needs to be within large urban areas, such as Greater London and parts of the Midlands which have at best remained static or at worst showed significant declines in recycling over the past two years and these regions, given the weighting of population, determine the ability of the UK overall to meet its 2020 50% target.”