Defra waste data reignites fears over EU recycling targets

The UK may have achieved a European Commission waste-to-landfill target eight years ahead of schedule, but it could be hard-pressed to reach the EC target recycling rate of 50% for household waste by 2020.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has today (25 September) sent its waste statistics for 2010 to 2012 through to Eurostat as part of its reporting objectives.

The stats reveal that the UK sent 10.3 million tonnes of Biodegradable Municipal Waste (BMW) to landfill in 2012, which is equivalent to 29% of a 1995 baseline – well under the 35% figure initially set by the Commission in 1999.

But when it comes to hitting the Commission’s 2020 and 2030 recycling targets, there is still much more to do. The 2020 target stands at 50% of municipal waste being recycled, but in July the Commission unveiled a new ‘Circular Economy Package‘, which requires member states to recycle 70% of municipal waste by 2030. Defra’s data shows that household recycling levels increased by just 1% in 2012, to 43.9 %.

Concerted effort

Commenting on today’s submission to the Commission, Waste & Resources Action Plan (WRAP) director Marcus Gover told edie: “In the last ten years we’ve achieved a lot in waste reduction and recycling, however there is still much more to do.

“We need a concerted effort by governments, local authorities, businesses and consumers if we are to realise the benefits of 50% recycling.”

Dan Cooke, director of external affairs at the UK’s largest recycling company Viridor, added: “Defra’s figures confirm that we are still not making the progress required of us and it remains touch and go as to whether the UK will meet the EU’s basic recycling target.

“The fact is we will only be successful in delivering a more circular economy if society shares our view that waste should be seen as a valuable resource,” said Cooke.

“It is essential that we continue to work in partnership with national and local government to ensure recycling is as simple as possible and to engage with business and local communities to further increase participation.”

“Limiting the increasing amounts of poorly-managed waste being ‘exported’ (at a cost) to the EU in particular would support domestic jobs and investment and allow the UK to maximise the potential of a national renewable resource to help power and assist with the UK’s energy security.”

Your view

An edie reader recently mooted financial incentives as a way to encourage the general public to recycle more.

But the Government remains confident it will hit the recycling targets on time. When contacted by edie, a Defra spokesperson said: “We are committed to recycling 50% of our household waste by 2020 – the significant progress we’ve made over the past ten years reflects a great deal of hard work by local authorities and a desire from householders to recycle more.

“We continue to support local authorities’ efforts to promote recycling and are working with WRAP to see what more we can do and what further measures may be needed to achieve this.”

Brad Allen & Luke Nicholls

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