According to recently published Defra data, for the first time since 2006/07, household waste arisings have increased by over 300,000 tonnes. This could be for any number of reasons, such as economic recovery or population increase, but it means that over 13 million tonnes of household waste are still being sent to disposal or recovery.
For household waste in England in 2013/14, we improved the amount of waste recycled, reused or composted by only 0.23% - ‘progressing’ to 43.45% in 2013/14.
With this in mind, how will we ever reach 50% by 2020?
Perhaps the greatest concern is the number of authorities who have seen a decline in their recycling rates year-on-year (some 53% have remained static or gone backwards). As well as the ongoing impact of austerity measures, recently introduced subscription-based garden waste services appear to have had a negative impact in a number of locations, and unsurprisingly we expect this trend to continue in this year’s data.
Why is this the case? A lack of government leadership?
In England, there is no statutory recycling target while in Wales, where there are statutory targets, there has been an increase in recycling rates to over 54.3%. That’s an increase of 13.8% over the last five years, compared to the small growth in England (just 3.8%).
Welsh local authorities are actively encouraged to spend on improving their services, while in England, the impact of austerity measures means that local authorities may have spent less on communications and changed their services to save money at the expense of their performance.
Almost 40% of authorities remain within a single percent of their 2012/13. This suggests little has changed operationally and communications budgets remain small-scale or non-existent.
Ricardo-AEA is currently working in partnership with the CIWM to look at the impact of austerity measures on local authority services and performance across the UK and Ireland.
Typically, authorities that have made the most progress have done so off the back of service changes, including simplifying recycling.
In contrast, Horsham (45.09%, a reduction of 7%) has gone the opposite way, dropping 91 places and out of the top 100. Horsham’s introduction of a subscription-based garden waste service in February 2013 may have been a key contributor to this.
So will we make any progress this year? Will the MRF Regulations affect what is reported as recycling? A number of authorities are still reporting zero contamination rates. Will this continue?
With the Scottish legislation requiring greater source segregation of recyclables for businesses and households from this year, the respective performance of the home nations could be very different indeed.