Defra steps in to tackle low recycling rates

Local authorities with the worst recycling rates in England are to have their targets raised and Defra plans to intervene directly to ensure they succeed.

Previously the worst performers had been set the modest target of recycling 18% of their municipal solid waste in 2007/2008 but this has now been bumped up 2% to 20%.

Almost 150 councils appear on Defra’s hit list and all parts of the country, both rural and urban, are represented on the list.

While many local authorities have particular circumstances that can make recycling more challenging than it is for some of their neighbours, the best boroughs are now achieving rates of 40% or even 50% and Government thinks it is time for those lagging behind to pick up the pace.

To help them meet these targets, Defra is also proposing more targeted intervention and engagement with the poorest performers.

This will include careful assessment of the problems faced, extra training and closer working with Defra.

Councils still not on track to meet their targets after a Defra rescue package can expect encouragement from the highest level as Ministers crack the whip themselves.

Ben Bradshaw, Defra Minister responsible for waste issues, said that these changes will help to narrow the gap between the best and the worst authorities while ensuring a more even level of service across the country.

“Recycling in this country has trebled since 1997 and many local authorities are now producing rates in line with the best in Europe,” he said.

“Some are already showing that recycling rates of 40% and even 50% are possible, and we want them to continue to lead the way.

“But we need to use this experience and success, so that those who aren’t recycling as much have all the support, encouragement and guidance they need.

“The result should be a more level service across the country, ensuring that everyone can recycle as much of their waste as possible.”

While only those with existing targets of 18% or lower will have their targets raised, Government will be pressing all local authorities to increase their recycling rates.

Only local authorities which had targets of 18% (or below) for 2005/06 will have these raised to 20% for 2007/08.

However, all others, some of which have set higher, voluntary performance targets, are urged to press ahead with their plans.

The sharing of resources, facilities and experience from successful councils are expected to pay a significant part in Defra’s plans to kick-start improvements in failing boroughs.

The department is also looking at the potential of including home composting when calculating council’s recycling performance, though the logistics of such a scheme could prove complicated.

Full listings of the latest recycling figures, from 2004/2005, can be found on the Defra website here.

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie