England’s household recycling rate fall to 43.4%, Defra statistics show


Household recycling

The official waste from English households recycling rate decreased by 0.7% to 43.4% in 2022, official statistics from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show.

The total amount of waste recycled also decreased from 10.2 million tonnes in 2021 to 9.3 million tonnes in 2022 – an 8.6% decrease. The amount of dry material recycled in 2022 was 5.5 million tonnes, down by 0.4 million tonnes from 2021, a decrease of 7.1%.

Food waste recycling rates also fell according to the latest figures. The tonnage of separately collected food waste sent for recycling fell by 2.6% to 499 thousand tonnes from 512 thousand tonnes in 2021.

Food waste
Food waste recycling rates also fell according to the latest figures.

“Other organic” waste sent for recycling was 3.3 million tonnes, a decrease of 442 thousand tonnes or 12% in 2021.

The statistics from Defra also show that 7.2% of all waste collected by local authorities (1.8 million tonnes) was disposed of via landfill in 2022/23, which is down by 0.3 million tonnes a 16% decrease from 2021/22.

Among the 333 local authorities in England, there is considerable variation in household waste recycling rates, ranging from 17.7% to 61.6% in 2022/23.

Incinerating waste was the disposal method for 49.1% of all local authority waste. However, waste sent for incineration decreased by 0.3 million tonnes (2.8%) to 12.1 million tonnes in 2022/23 compared to 2021/22.

10.0 million tonnes of local authority waste was sent for recycling in 2022/23, a decrease of 0.8 million tonnes (7.7%) in 2021/22.

The rolling 12-month waste, including IBA metal, from households recycling rate was 43.3% at the end of March 2023, a decrease of 0.8% compared to the previous 12-month period.

In 2022, total waste from households also decreased to 21.5 million tonnes from 2021 when it was 23.1 million tonnes. Defra said this is equivalent to 377 kg per person, down from 409 kg per person in 2021 – a 7.9% decrease.

Consumers need simpler ways to understand the importance of reducing waste.

Metal recovered and then recycled from waste that has been through incineration (IBA metal) added approximately 1% to the recycling rate in 2022, which was unchanged from 2020. The amount of residual waste treated was 12.1 million tonnes, down from 12.9 million tonnes in 2021, a decrease of 6.0%.

Industry reactions to household recycling rates

Reacting to the figures, Lee Marshall, CIWM Policy & External Affairs Director, said: “CIWM welcomes the reduction in overall household waste arisings, a key figure in reducing the impact of waste materials and products and another small step towards a world beyond waste.

“The lack of increase in the recycling rate is a reflection of the policy vacuum local authorities and their partners have been forced to operate in without meaningful details on EPR and consistent collections. It shows that we now need to move swiftly on to the implementation of these two key policies if we are to see the step change in recycling levels that is needed in England.

“CIWM urges the Government to push ahead and give the clarity on funding levels and operational details needed for the investment and mobilisation to happen across the sector.”

The lack of increase in the recycling rate is a reflection of the policy vacuum local authorities and their partners have been forced to operate in.

Nathan Gray, Head of Sustainability at leading international circular economy specialist Reconomy, commented: “Consumers need simpler ways to understand the importance of reducing waste and easier mechanisms through which they can recycle to encourage long-term positive behaviours.

“It is an urgent necessity for policyholders, waste producers, businesses and consumers to harness the environmental and economic benefits from reducing waste and increasing circularity.”

Simon Baddeley, Major Projects Director at Biffa, said it is “sobering to see a fall in England’s already stagnated household recycling rate”.

Household recyclingHe continued: “The closure of household waste recycling centres and the suspension of green waste collections during Covid will have been a factor, but the reality is there has been no significant improvement in England’s overall recycling rate for many years.

“As part of a wider UK drive for consistency of waste streams, we hope (Simpler Recycling) reforms will encourage behaviour change at home and in the workplace to help boost recycling rates, cut down on contamination and significantly reduce food that is no longer suitable for human consumption being put in general waste where it’s sent to landfill or energy recovery.

“Instead, the introduction of separate food waste collections will see more of the food that can’t be redistributed or used in animal feed, diverted to anaerobic digestion where, as a last resort, it is transformed into renewable electricity and a nutrient rich soil improver and liquid fertilizer for agriculture.”

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