England shows slowdown in recycling rate

Fears have been raised that national recycling rates in England may be flatlining following the release of latest figures from Defra.

Statistics for the first quarter of 2012-3 show that six million tonnes (45.5%) of household waste was sent for recycling between April and June 2012 – just 0.5 percentage points higher than the same period the previous year.

Meanwhile the use of incineration with energy recovery increased by over 20% to 1.3 million tonnes, suggesting that councils are struggling to move their waste management activities up the hierarchy.

Industry leaders have expressed disappointment at the latest findings. CIWM chief executive Steve Lee said that these statistics were bucking the trend of year-on-year increases in recycling percentages.

“It would be unfortunate if this was as a result of cutbacks in local authority operational services. If this is the case, we could expect further levelling off and we would see this as a retrograde step,” he commented.

Meanwhile Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson said the flatlining was a real cause for concern – especially as it is “likely to be an over-reported figure”.

“Defra themselves recently noted in their just published Quality Action Plan that ‘current recycling rates reported to WasteDataFlow are likely to be overestimates as many do not account for material rejected by the MRF during the sorting process in a robust manner’,” he pointed out.

He added: “Until there is real transparency of data and reporting, debate about trends and performance on anything other than the real diminishing amounts of landfill will continue to be inadequately informed.”

Maxine Perella

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