Estimated figures published by Defra show the total amount collected by local authorities in 2007-08 fell by 0.6m tonnes to an estimated 28.5m tonnes – a decrease of 2.2%.

This compares to the five years between April 2005 and March 2007, when the rate of change was an average of just 0.6%.

More than 45% of the waste collected was reused in some way, either through recycling, composting, incineration or fuel manufacture. This marked a slight increase from the previous year.

Recycling jumped from 30.6% in 2006-07 to 34% in 2007-08, while incineration remained steady at 11%. The amount of household rubbish ending up in landfill fell from 57.9% of waste to 54.4%.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the figures showed that local authorities had made great strides in tackling waste in recent years.

Councillor Paul Bettison, chairman of the LGA’s Environment Board, said: “Residents and local councils deserve great credit for substantially improving our performance on waste and recycling over recent years.

“While recycling rates are moving in the right direction, there is a need to do more. Britain is still the dustbin of Europe, throwing more waste into landfill than any other country in the EU.

“It is pleasing to see our recycling rates increasing, but other countries on the continent are still recycling almost twice as much.”

The figures also revealed that some areas in the country are lagging severely behind others.

London and the north east are recycling less than 30% of their rubbish, while the east, East Midlands, and south west are managing to recycle more than 40% of their rubbish.

Last month, the London Councils published their vision for improving London’s poor performance on waste (see related story).

Kate Martin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie