England left trailing in UK circular economy race

England is a poor circular economy contender compared with Scotland and Wales due to its focus on the bottom of the waste hierarchy, new research claims.

A study out today from Eunomia revealed that residual waste treatment facilities already in the pipeline could limit England’s rate of recycling to just 60% in 2020 for local authority collected waste.

The finding is in stark contrast to LAC potential recycling rates in the devolved administrations, which could peak at 82% for Scotland and 79% for Wales.

Adam Baddeley, the report’s lead author, told edie that many councils in England were locked into long-term waste disposal contracts that were predominantly associated with energy recovery. He said that this meant “that some councils had their hands tied” and could not create any new developments to reuse or recycle this waste to “help deliver a circular economy”.

He added: “It’s worrying that we are already in danger of limiting how far we can go with recycling in England. If we genuinely aspire to develop a circular economy, then we must shift the focus of investment away from residual waste towards options further up the hierarchy.”

However, Baddeley added that there were still some English councils who were not locked into long-term contracts and as such, should seek “sensible” and “flexible” alternatives.

The study also suggested that whilst Scotland and Wales have previously received criticism for not moving forward sufficiently quickly with new residual treatment capacity, this might now prove to have been a wise approach.

“Had they moved further and faster, they could have faced greater difficulties in meeting their policy objectives in terms of recycling and waste prevention, which are more ambitious than those that exist in England,” it stated.

The report is based on local authority annual WasteDataFlow returns to Defra, and Eunomia’s Facilities Database, which holds information on all residual treatment facilities in the UK (both operating and under development) to model the balance between the two.

Data is analysed on both a national and regional basis, to provide a detailed picture of where insufficient or excess capacity is anticipated.

Liz Gyekye

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