Jonathan Straight, who heads up his own waste and recycling container solution company Straight, told edie he was surprised to see the UK ranked so high.

“I think it is a miracle we are in eighth place. I think this is more about the appalling performance of the 19 [countries] below us rather than anything else,” he said.

He pointed to the nation’s heavy reliance on landfill compared to the rest of Europe and Defra’s current stance on allowing co-mingled collections to continue under its interpretation of the revised Waste Framework Directive “where there is no justification for them”.

“The UK should follow EU recycling directives correctly,” he maintained. “Ultimately this will play out and the correct way forward will emerge. In the interim we have to rely on the poor performance of other member states to justify our position in the league table.”

Waste consultant Paul Levett, former chief executive of Veolia, was more congratulatory and said the industry “should take pride” in the rate of improvement achieved in recent years.

“We have seen a reduction in total waste arisings, municipal solid waste recycling rates have just reached 42.9% and recycling of construction and demolition waste has hit high levels,” he told edie.

He added that there was “definitely potential for more medals” if government and industry join together to focus on policy, investment and quality. He cited future growth potential in anaerobic digestion for food waste and the recovery of trade waste arisings.

The EU ‘medal table’ measured the country’s performance in waste management against 26 other member states using a set of criteria in areas such as recycling rates, disposal costs and breaches in legislation.

The UK was marked down for its lack of landfill restrictions on certain materials and for its slow uptake of energy recovery as a diversion tactic compared to other countries.

The seven countries that out-performed the UK ranked in order were Austria (who took the gold medal) followed by the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg. Bottom of the table was Greece.

Maxine Perella

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