England achieves highest recycling rate ever

Recent figures indicate that England has achieved a higher recycling rate than ever before – good news in the face of European targets.

The latest local authority recycling statistics, based on data submitted to WasteDataFlow show the highest recycling rate recorded for England ever, with 43% of household waste now being recycled. The North West’s figure for recycled household waste in 2011-12 is also 43%.

While this is an encouraging result, and indicates progress towards the European target of 50% by 2020, local authorities have no room for complacency. The increase since last year (1.5%) is the lowest for ten years, perhaps as a result of local authorities tackling the easy targets first. Regions now need to look at changing people’s behaviour, as well as developing “new areas and efficiencies in the waste services they provide” – no mean feat.

The amount of household waste generated in 2011-12 was 22.9 million tonnes, amounting to 431 kg of waste per person and continuing a steadily decreasing trend of just over 2% per year. Of this, 10.7 million tonnes of waste was recycled and, for the first time, this exceeded the amount of waste for landfill. However, the decrease in landfill (which still accounts for over 37% of waste disposal) could also be partly due to increased incineration rates.

The 2011-12 report features, for the first time, an analysis of local authority collected waste in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Traditionally, waste related figures have been expressed in tonnes, but this experimental, alternative analysis is a step towards producing a carbon impact assessment, focusing on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with waste management activities. Whereas textiles, for example, may not account for a large proportion of the total weight of waste, they account for significantly more CO2 emissions.

Carbon dioxide can be emitted in the waste management process but offset by recycling materials that have already released CO2 (through their method of extraction or production). When looked at in “CO2 equivalent terms”, local authorities saved 4.3 million tonnes of potential CO2 emissions by managing waste. Recycling, reusing or composting materials prevented the release of 6.9 million tonnes of CO2 that might otherwise have been produced through landfill (which, along with incineration, yielded 2.7 million tonnes CO2 equivalent).

Recycling Lives is pleased with the findings of the report and we welcome the Government’s experimental look at waste management in terms of carbon. As a company with a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility, sustainability is our byword, and through our environmentally responsible business activities, we are doing everything we can to ensure that England achieves its 2020 target of 50% of household waste being recycled.

As a national company with a strong North West presence, Recycling Lives is proud of what the local authorities in the region have achieved, and we hope to see next year’s figure to match (or, better still, exceed!) the overall percentage for England.