England should ‘hang its head in shame’ over static recycling efforts

With new figures released on Thursday (2 June) revealing that recycling figures for Wales had edged towards 60%, charity Keep Britain Tidy (KBT) has claimed that the lack of progress on recycling in England "reflects very badly on the situation".

The Welsh Assembly released new recycling figures highlighting that seven councils have achieved a 58% recycling rate, which is the target that all councils are expected to hit by the end of 2016.

While Environment Minister Carl Sargeant praised Wales for “leading the UK” in regards to recycling, KBT has lamented the “stubbornly static” lack of progress in England, which has failed to increase a 44% recycling rate over the last two years.

KBT’s deputy chief executive Richard McIlwain said: “The success in Wales reflects very badly on the situation here in England. If the Government is serious about getting to grips with waste then it needs to look at what has been implemented in Wales and consider whether measures such as targets for individual local authorities, streamlined and consistent recycling bins and collection frequencies, together with statutory requirements around food waste collection, could drive up the faltering recycling rate in England.”

Financial consequences

Unlike England, Wales have introduced a policy requiring every local authority in the country to meet recycling requirements, which will rise to 100% by 2050. While Wales has already passed EU legislation requirements to achieve an average recycling rate of 50% by 2020, England could be left with numerous penalties if it fails to reach the targets within the timeframe.

The fact that severe financial situations have contributed to the closure of two of England’s biggest recycling plants in Lancashire is unlikely to ease concerns. Lancashire Country Council, which holds ownership and responsibility for running the two sites, told edie that the Government scrappage of the landfilling organic waste penalty in 2013 had significantly undermined the plants’ economic viability.

But through the efforts of Resources Minister Rory Stewart and representatives from local authorities and WRAP, England’s recycling rates could be boosted, as phase two of the organisation’s plan looks to investigate a range of waste collection models to boost recycling levels that have increased by just 0.4% in two years.

Valleys of victory

Much of Wales’ recycling rate increases can be put down to the country’s Landfill Allowance Scheme (LAS), which requires waste disposal authorities to limit the amount of biodegradable municipal waste that they send to landfill. Since the scheme started in 2004, Welsh local authorities have achieved a 70% reduction in the amount of biodegradable waste they landfill.

New legislation has also been passed in Wales which seeks to cap the amount of waste materials sent to Energy from Waste (EfW) facilities in the country, as the Welsh Assembly looks to ramp up businesses’ recycling efforts.

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Matt Mace

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