UK generates more waste despite slight increase in recycling

The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the National Assembly for Wales report of the joint survey of municipal waste management for financial years 1996/97 and 1997/98 was published last week. The figures show the overall amount of household municipal waste continuing to rise despite marginal improvements in recycling figures.

The report shows the following total waste arisings:

  • 1995/96: 25.2 million tonnes
  • 1996/97: 26.0 million tonnes
  • 1997/98: 27.2 million tonnes

Household waste

Over 90 per cent of municipal waste (24.6 million tonnes 1997/98) comes from household sources. This figure includes regular refuse collections, civic amenity site waste, waste collected for recycling and composting and waste from special collections.

This represents around 1.1 tonnes of waste per household per year. The provisional results of the 1998/99 survey show this figure increased to 1.3 tonnes.

Waste management and disposal

Eighty-five per cent of municipal waste went to landfill. In 1996/97 the proportion of waste being incinerated without energy recovery was 2 per cent but dropped to almost nothing the following year, reflecting the introduction of more stringent emissions standards. Recycling and landfill both increased slightly between 1996/97 and 1997/98.

Recycling and recovery of municipal waste

In 1997/98, 14 per cent of municipal waste had value recovered from it through recycling, composting or energy from waste schemes. This is up by one per cent on the previous year.

Recycling of household waste

Around 2 million tonnes of household waste was collected for recycling or centralised composting in 1997/98. Nearly 40 per cent of this was paper and card, with glass and composting each accounting for 20 per cent. Green waste collections at civic amenity sites contributed to increasing use of centralised composting facilities, 280,000 tonnes in 1996/97 to an estimated 490,000 tonnes in 1998/9.


The number of civic amenity sites recycling collection points fell slightly. However the proportion of households served by ‘kerbside’ recycling schemes more than doubled from 17 per cent of households in 1995/96 to 38 per cent in 1997/98. Kerbside collection schemes mostly collect paper and card, whereas civic amenity and ‘bring’ sites collect a range of materials.

Local authorities distributed nearly 28,000 home composters in 1997/98.

The report, Municipal Waste Management 1996 and 1997/8 (ISBN 1-85112-409-8. Price: £15.00.), is available from:

DETR Publications Sales Centre, Unit 21, Goldthorpe Industrial Estate,

Goldthorpe, Rotherham S63 9BL.

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