A lack of food waste collection schemes and the use of larger residual waste bins were found to cause lower overall recycling rates among local authorities, explaining between 39% and 65% of the variations in recycling rates between councils.

The new report – Analysis of recycling performance and waste arisings in the UK 2012/13 – found recycling rates were likely to be lower in areas with larger waste bins and greater residual waste capacity, falling up to 7% in some areas.

Waste bin capacity of 240 litres compared to 120 litres saw dry recycling yields falling and residual waste rising. The report also found some levels outside of the councils’ control led to lower recycling rates, particularly high levels of local deprivation.

Local control

WRAP head of resource management Linda Crichton said: “Recycling rates vary throughout the UK just as they do in other countries, and the reasons for this are complex. They can be within the control of an authority or contextual factors, such as demographics, that are beyond the authority’s control.

“Being able to quantify the degree to which each impact on recycling is hugely important for an authority, and this report will help make that possible.”

WRAP analysed figures from 239 authorities in the UK around 60% of all local waste and collection authorities.

Food factors

Significantly, authorities with separate food waste or mixed food and garden waste collections were found to have consistently higher recycling rates compared to those with no food waste collection, with some increasing their recycling rates by almost 9%.

Other trends the study revealed showed there was very little difference in recycling rates no matter what dry recycling schemes were in operation, whether mixed recycling or multi-stream. WRAP hopes the new findings will help local authorities and waste management firms plan more effective recycling schemes.

WRAP has recently called for a ‘resource revolution’, setting out a five-year plan to improve recycling rates to tackle ‘business as usual’ approaches to consumption. The organisation said it is aiming to help re-define what is possible through re-use and recycling.

Matt Field

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