Government figures released this week showed that English recycling rates increased from 43.9% to 45% in the 12 months to September 2014, but quarterly recycling rates rose just 0.1% year-on-year.

And Jakob Rindegren from the Environmental Services Association (ESA) believes recycling rates may have actually dropped since the figures were collected, jeopardising progress towards an EU target of recycling half of household waste.

Rindegren said: “Given recycling market turbulence in the last 6 – 9 months, it may be the case that we haven’t been able to sustain this improved performance since September.

“ESA strongly encourages the new UK Government to work with all parts of the supply chain to make sure the downturn is as short-lived as possible.”

Specifically Rindegren mentioned local authorities, the waste & resource management industry and the reprocessing industry.

“They are all working hard to ensure more is being recycled than ever before, said Rindegren. “But to move towards a more circular economy, conversations also need to be had with manufacturers, product designers and obligated companies within the producer responsibility regime.

“It’s about listening to different point of views and taking decisive action.”

Rindegren argued that to meet 2020 targets, Britain needs to unlock private investment by establishing a long-term strategic plan. He added: “Importantly, such a plan would have to address the demand side of recycling, and not just the supply side, which has been the focus so far.

The new figures revealed slow-but-steady progress on recycling rates from 41% in 2010 to 45% in 2014, but calls for more political action started immediately after the General Election, with the ESA suggesting the Tory Government should work collaboratively with the industry towards EU targets.

ESA spokesman Jacob Hayler said at the time: “A key environmental priority for the next Government should be to find a way for us to meet our 2020 household recycling targets without local authorities going bust. The industry is keen to help the Government solve this conundrum as well as other issues affecting our sector

The other major call issued by the waste sector after the election is for the establishment of an Office of Resource Management. Such a body would theoretically help the UK extract valuable resources from waste and drive a transition to the circular economy.

Brad Allen

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