Huge recycling gap between best and worst boroughs in UK

A league table naming and shaming the UK's worst recyclers - and showering praise on the best - has been published by Defra.

The list gives a borough-by-borough breakdown of the rate residents are recycling and composting their household waste.

The figures from 2004/05 show that as a nation Britain is getting better at recycling but there are still a large number of boroughs which are way off target.

Meanwhile the Suffolk district of St Edmundsbury, awarded beacon status for dealing with waste in 2000, has topped the table and recycles or composts more than half of its waste.

The local authority and residents there are collectively doing more than any others in the country, notching up recycling and composting rates comparable to those on the continent.

The Defra statistics show that people in the East of England continue to lead the way, with residents in St Edmundsbury (50.6%), Forest Heath (48.6%) and South Cambridgeshire (46.8%) helping the region recycle and compost nearly 30% of its waste.

When composting is excluded from the figures Broadland, Babergh and Chiltern have the highest rates of dry recycling in the country with all three approaching 40%.

Solihull had the largest drop in waste generation, down from 502kg per person the previous year to 370kg - a drop of over 132kg. The national average is 518 kg per person.

As a rule of thumb, cities struggle to get recycling rates up, partly as the prevalence of flats makes doorstep collection schemes more difficult to implement.

The lowest amount of recycling took place in the North East which as a region only recycled 16.4% of its municipal waste followed closely by London (17.7%) with residents in Newham (6.2%), Tower Hamlets (7.4%) and Liverpool (7.6%) recycling the least.

The most improved authorities - Harborough, Cherwell and Vale Royal - experienced dramatic improvements, with increases of 31.1%, 24.7% and 24.6% respectively.

As well as highlighting the performance of individual authorities, today's figures confirm that people in England recycled and composted nearly 23% of their waste.

This means that England is on course to reach its target to put a quarter of the contents of our bins to better use by 2005/06.

Local Environmental Quality Minister, Ben Bradshaw, said: "The rate of progress in the East of England in general is outstanding - and all the more impressive given that in England we have traditionally relied on landfill - something which has left us some way behind our European neighbours in the amounts we recycle.

"However, the local authority and residents of St Edmunds bury and Broadland are showing just what can be done, and is setting an example for the rest of the country to follow.

"Nevertheless, it is disappointing that some authorities are not making the kind of progress we all expect.

"People really want to recycle, but we must make it easy for them. Local authorities therefore have to work even harder to make that happen and help our budding recycling culture to continue to flourish."

Last September the Government released provisional figures and used the occasion to reiterate that is was a realistic goal for the UK to reach similar rates as the best in Europe (see related story).

The full list of recycling rates can be found on Defra's website.

By Sam Bond



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