Council emissions savings down 3% as recycling rate stalls

The amount of CO2 being saved by local councils in England and Wales through recycling fell by 3%, between 2011/12 and 2012/13, according to a new recycling report released last week.

Eunomia’s latest Recycling Carbon Index calculates the total carbon savings generated from recycling in local authorities, which saves the embodied carbon in the recyclable materials. The report then divides these findings by the population served by the council to rate them by efficiency and carbon savings. (Download report here). 

It found that the overall recycling rate in England rose by just 0.2% over the 12-month period, while in Northern Ireland, CO2 savings improved by 1% compared to 2011/12.

It names Cheshire and West Chester County Council as the best performing council for CO2 savings from recycling. The council saved an estimated 105kg of CO2 per person in 2012-13, just edging out North Somerset County Council. The councils with the lowest CO2 savings from recycling were largely inner-city councils and London suburbs.

The report discovered that a marked decrease in textile recycling (-11%) and metal recycling (-4%) in 2013 led to reduced carbon savings, as these materials have high levels of embodied carbon. Their capture had a far greater impact on CO2 reductions than household food waste recycling, which itself increased by 26%.

Eunomia states that the reduction in carbon benefit from recycling shows the implications of a plateauing raw recycling rate for England. This comes after the European Commission recommended a statutory rate for municipal waste recycling in July, of 70% by 2030.

The overall statistical changes in the report showed that in 2012/13, 58% of English authorities performed worse in the Recycling Carbon Index compared to 2011/12. The report stated that the overall drop in CO2 savings from recycling in England amounted to around 100,000 tonnes of CO2.

Eunomia’s director James Fulford said: “The reduction in carbon benefit from household recycling in England and Wales between 2011/12 and 2012/13 highlights the importance of considering the full environmental impacts of recycling services.

“It is encouraging that despite the changing composition of the recycling being collected, some authorities have managed to make impressive improvements. We need efficient collection services that effectively maximise environmental performance.”

In July, edie reported that almost £1.7bn a year was being lost in the UK due to a disjointed recycling system. Less than half of all waste in the UK is recycled and municipal recycling rates have stalled in recent years.

Download the full Recycling Carbon Index from Eunomia’s for free here. 

Matt Field

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