UK Recycling Rate Edges Up To 45.7%, New Figures Show

The UK recycling rate for waste from households was 45.7% in 2017, increasing slightly from 45.2% in 2016, according to new figures from Defra.

The recycling rate for waste from households (WfH), including incineration bottom ash (IBA), increased in all UK countries in 2017. The recycling rate for England was 45.2%, compared with 46.3% in Northern Ireland, 43.5% in Scotland and 57.6% in Wales.

Northern Ireland saw a 3.0 percentage point increase in the recycling rate in 2017 compared to 2016 which has been attributed to the introduction of mandatory food waste collection from April 2017.

UK biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) sent to landfill has fallen from approximately 7.8 million tonnes in 2016 (22% of the baseline 1995 value) to around 7.4 million tonnes in 2017 (21% of the baseline 1995 value).

The UK is therefore still on track to meet the EU target to restrict BMW landfilled to 35% of the 1995 baseline by 2020, Defra says.

Provisional figures for 2017 indicate 70.2% of UK packaging waste was either recycled or recovered compared to 71.4% in 2016. This exceeds the EU target to recycle or recover at least 60% of packaging waste.

Recycling and other recovery was the most common final waste treatment type in the UK, accounting for 104 million tonnes (48.5%) in 2016. Landfill is the second most used waste treatment in the UK, with 24.4% (52.3 million tonnes) of waste disposed of at landfill in 2016.

Energy recovery showed the largest percentage change in tonnage, with the 2016 figure of 7.3 million tonnes being almost four times the 1.9 million tonnes treated in 2014. Larger tonnages of waste are now treated at energy recovery facilities than at incineration without energy recovery.

For the full statistics click here.

Throwaway Culture

Responding to the latest UK statistics on waste, Cllr Martin Tett, Environment spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “Councils are playing their part when it comes to improving recycling rates with our waste collection services diverting millions of tonnes of waste from landfill every year.

“But 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 we were pleased to see these measures included in the recent Waste and Resources strategy.

“With councils in England facing an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025, it is also vital that the Spending Review fully funds the local services our communities rely on, like waste and recycling.”

LGA – “Councils are playing their part when it comes to improving recycling rates with our waste collection services diverting millions of tonnes of waste from landfill every year.”

Friends of the Earth’s waste campaigner Julian Kirby said Government must challenge throwaway culture.

He said: “UK waste strategy is suffering from years of neglect with little progress in boosting recycling rates or reducing the amount of waste we create.

“On top of this ‘energy from waste’ incineration has more than trebled since 2014 – which is terrible news for our climate and precious resources.

“At long last the government appears to be waking up to the need for tougher action – but far greater emphasis must be given to waste prevention, rather than cure.

“We urgently need to tackle our throwaway culture – including better product design, more re-use, and a phase out of plastic – to ensure that far less waste is created in the first place.”

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