Wales bucks trend of decreasing household recycling in UK

Data up to March 2021 reveals the total household recycling rate dropped to 43.8% in England whilst it increased to the highest ever level in Wales.

The fall in England presents a reduction of 1.7 percentage points compared to the previous 12 month period and is thought to be due to the disruption caused by lockdowns during the last year. Several local authorities didn’t have the resources to continue regular collections, and the closure of Household Waste Recycling Centres further reduced the amount of available recyclable waste.

Interestingly, the total amount of waste sent to recycling facilities in England remained consistent with previous years at 10.1 million tonnes, and actual waste generated by households increased by 4%.

The sum of all local authority waste sent to incineration increased to 12.5 million tonnes, 0.8 million more than 2019-2020, accounting for 48.2% of the overall figure and highlighting the UK’s use of energy from waste. This said, waste reported as being sent to landfill decreased by 7.1%, or 2 million tonnes.

Wales meanwhile hit a record 65.4% recycling rate in 2020/21, an increase of 0.3% compared to the previous period, with arguably tougher COVID-19 restrictions in place - impressive considering total municipal waste arising dropped by 2.6%. 

Work towards a common goal

Wales’s minister for climate change, Julie James, said of the success "Our recycling stats are world-class thanks to a Team Wales effort. They show what we can achieve when government, business and the third sector work together towards a common goal."

"They also show that while investment and partnership working have been key ingredients of this success, ultimately this achievement has been down to people recycling at home in every part of Wales."

"Our move to a circular economy is good for helping our homegrown businesses flourish, while helping us decarbonise, reduce waste and support our recovery from the pandemic."

Scotland and Northern Ireland’s recycling totals also decreased – by 2.9% and 1.1% respectively. The introduction of the consistent collection framework in coming years, now legislation in the Environment Act, will hopefully go some way to ensuring England’s recycling figures start catching up with those of Wales.

Find out more about the recent consultation on consistency in household and business recycling in England.

Louisa Goodfellow

Policy Manager

As Policy advisor Louisa provides key support to our team, including preparing reports on environmental policy issues and maintaining awareness of new developments. As such she will often be found coordinating responses to policy consultations, advocating policy positions and providing internal guidance to current legislation.

Written by Louisa Goodfellow Published 20/12/2021 Topics Packaging
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