Total ‘waste from households’ in England fell by 1.5% in 2017 to 22.4 million tonnes from 22.8 million tonnes in 2016. This is equivalent to 403 kg per person, down from 412 kg per person in 2016, a decrease of 2.2%.

But the figures are undermined by the rolling 12-month household recycling rate to March 2018, which shows a 0.3% decline compared with the previous period between 2016/17.

The latest figures mean that that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are now ahead of England for the first time. The statistics also cast doubt over the UK’s ability to hit the EU target to recycle at least 50% of household waste by 2020.

“Today’s annual recycling statistics unfortunately continue to show that the country remains in the recycling doldrums, after more than a decade of hard-won behavioural change,” Suez’s chief executive David Palmer-Jones said.

“The lack of progress is a reflection of the challenges facing the global recycling market; cuts to consumer communication and perhaps consumer apathy and the majority of domestic political activity being focussed on other areas in recent years.”

It is thought that China’s import restrictions on recycling had an adverse effect, a development that experts say does not bode well for the full figures for 2018.

Separate collections?

The statistics arrive in the same week that a Government Minister hinted the imminent Resources & Waste Strategy will “require separate food waste collections”.

Speaking at the ADBA national conference yesterday (11 December), Investment Minister Graham Stuart said: “[The Resources & Waste Strategy will] tackle long-standing issues like waste crime, collection systems, packaging and plastic pollution – including requiring separate food waste collections.”

Only around a third of households in England currently have their food waste separately collected, whilst collections are universal in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Last month, Environment Secretary Michael Gove told edie that the Resources and Waste Strategy would be published before Christmas, although the Brexit-related political turmoil facing the Government could mean the document is delayed until the New Year.

Palmer-Jones continued: “The imminent Resources and Waste Plan from Defra offers an opportunity for the nation to make an environmental step change, but is not going to be an immediate panacea to the current dwindling performance.

“We do, however, believe that Defra’s plan will provide a longer-term roadmap for the nation’s journey towards a circular economy and will deliver positive direction for businesses, consumers and the environment.”

George Ogleby

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