Municipal waste survey reveals slow progress on road to meeting Government’s recycling targets

The full report on the 2000/2001 Municipal Waste Management Survey for England shows that there has been minimal progress towards meetings the national strategy goals for waste minimisation and recycling, with a standstill on progress on landfill over the latest reported year despite major investment to increase waste handling facilities.

Waste Strategy 2000 for England and Wales set out targets for the management of municipal and household waste. These include a target to recycle or compost at least 25 % of household waste by 2005 and to recover value from 40% of municipal waste by the same date.

On municipal waste management and disposal, the survey shows a decrease in the proportion of municipal waste disposed of to landfill, from 80% in 1999/00 to 78% in 2000/01. However, there was a slight increase in the actual amount of waste being managed this way, from 21.9 million tonnes to 22.1 million tonnes.

In total, some sort of value (recycling, composting, energy recovery) was recovered from about six million tonnes (21%) of municipal waste in 2000/01, compared with 5.5 million tonnes (or 20%) in 1999/00.

The figures show that the amount of waste incinerated without some form of energy recovery rose from 10,000 tonnes in 1999/00 to 20,000 tonnes in 2000/01. However, compared with the quantities incinerated with energy recovery, this was a very small amount, the survey states.

More significantly, the amount of waste being incinerated with energy recovery increased by by 5%, from 2.3 million tonnes in 1999/00 to 2.5 million tonnes in 2000/01.

As a proportion of all waste, the amount being incinerated with energy recovery has increased from 8% in 1999/00 to 9% in 2000/01.

Household waste and recycling

About 89% of municipal waste comes from households – in 2000/01, this represented about 1.2 tonnes of waste per household per year or about half a tonne of waste per person.

The proportion of household waste recycled (including composting) has increased steadily, from 7 in 1996/97 to 11 % cent in 2000/01.

The proportion of households served by “kerbside” recycling collection schemes has increased from 48% in 1999/00 to 51% in 2000/01. Over the same period the amount of waste collected for recycling through such schemes has increased by 14%, to 818,000 in 2000/01.

In 2000/01 paper and card accounted for a third of all waste collected for recycling, with 0.9 million tonnes being collected. The next most common materials collected were compostable waste (29%, 0.8 million tonnes) and glass (14%, 0.4 million tonnes).

Figures for specific materials show that the 26,000 tonnes of cans (both ferrous and aluminium) collected in 2000/01 represented a small decrease from the 32,000 tonnes collected during 1999/2000. The survey points out that, although cans account for a small proportion (one per cent) of the total amount of materials collected for recycling, they have a high energy recovery rate, meaning that that there are particularly strong environmental benefits in recycling them.

The majority (about 60%) of municipal waste was collected via the regular household collection rounds. The average amount arising per household from the regular collection was 15.5kg per week, which was about the same as in 1999/00.

The provision of wheeled bins increased from 41% of households in 1966/97 to 51% in 2000/01. Over the same period the percentage of households supplied with plastic sacks has decreased by about 5%.

Areas using wheeled bins generate more waste per household and recycle less than those using plastic sacks. The survey notes that wheeled bins tend to be used in areas that have on average more people per household and are associated with particular housing types.

Regional variations

Landfill remained the dominant waste management route in all regions during 2000/01. The highest proportion of waste going to landfill was in the North West (90%) and the lowest in the West Midlands (58%).

Regional household recycling rates were highest for the South East (16.4%), the East (15.1%) and the South West (15.0 per cent). The North East (4.1%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (7.2%) had the lowest recycling rates.

This is the sixth year of the survey carried out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and the National Assembly for Wales. The survey estimates are based on information from questionnaires sent out to all waste collection authorities (WCAs), waste disposal authorities (WDAs) and unitary authorities (UAs). The response to this year’s survey was close to 95%. Estimates have been made where authorities are non-responding or have provided incomplete data.

The authorities are asked to provide information on the amounts of municipal waste collected and disposed of, on the levels of recycling and recovery of household and municipal waste, on methods of waste containment, levels of service provision, and details of waste collection and disposal contracts.

Municipal waste includes household waste and other wastes collected by a waste collection authority or its agents, such as municipal parks and gardens waste, beach cleansing waste, commercial or industrial waste, and waste resulting from the clearance of fly-tipped materials.

Household waste and recycling figures form one of the supporting indicators, indicator (A5), of sustainable development which is set out in Quality of Life Counts: indicators for a strategy for sustainable development for the United Kingdom by DETR (December 1999). There are 15 headline indicators which form a “quality of life barometer” measuring everyday concerns like housing quality, health, jobs, air quality, educational achievement, wildlife, economic prosperity and waste (industrial, commercial and household). They are intended to focus public attention on what sustainable development means and to give a broad overview of whether we are “achieving a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come”. More information can be found on the Government’s Sustainable Development web site

Municipal Waste Management Survey 2000/2001, a National Statistics publication, is available on the DEFRA website at: Hard copies of the publication are available from: DEFRA Publications, Admail 6000, London SW1A 2XX

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