Britain exceeds recycling target for first time

For the first time ever, England has met - and actually exceeded - its recycling targets, Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett confirmed this week.

On average, householders in Britain are now recycling and composting almost 18% of their household waste, beating the national target by nearly 1%. This brings UK recycling figures up by 3.2% since the previous year.

However, Ms Beckett stated that we still needed to work hard to achieve the 25% target currently set for the 2005/06 period.

“England is making excellent progress on recycling but we must not be complacent – we must now work towards recycling and composting a quarter of household waste,” she commented.

She said that the new Municipal Waste Management Statistics reflected the fact that it was becoming constantly easier to recycle waste around the country, with supermarkets increasingly offering recycling facilities and kerbside collection schemes now provided by virtually every local authority in the UK.

She added that the government remained committed to ensuring that every kerbside collection included at least two types of recyclable materials for every household in England by 2010.

Moreover, Defra was continuing to put large amounts of funding into pilot schemes to encourage household recycling, ranging from developing new technologies to offering financial incentives to get more people involved.

However, Liberal Democrat Defra spokesperson Sue Doughty said although the figures were welcome they failed to recognise the fact that some local authorities had encouraged waste minimisation.

In places where many local residents had been encouraged to use home composters, the figures indicated that less progress had been made than in boroughs that rather encouraged sending waste for central composting through the council.

“Waste minimisation must be the first priority, and the government’s figures fail to reflect the fact that some councils have made excellent progress in minimising municipal waste,” she said.

“The Liberal Democrats are calling for a change to the way government figures are presented to give a fairer deal to councils who minimise waste and to ensure there is an incentive for councils to pursue the best environmental options.”

But Defra’s report did highlight the fact that the total amount of municipal waste had decreased by 1% – another first for the UK – which represents a reduction of around 300,000 tonnes of waste. The amount of waste collected from each person in England per year had also gone down by 2%.

Environment Minister Elliot Morley told edie that he was delighted to see the overall waste stream going down for the first time while recycling rates were going up, and said he felt that growing public awareness following the government’s Recycle Now campaign (see related story), amongst others, was largely to thank for the UK’s success.

He said that the 25% target set for the 2005/06 period was also achievable, adding that recycling in single figures was now totally unacceptable and he would be working with poor performers to improve their recycling efforts.

“Recycling is no longer an optional extra. While most councils are working incredibly hard to improve their performance there are a few who repeatedly achieve extremely disappointing rates of recycling and composting,” Mr Morley stated.

By Jane Kettle

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