Recycling rates drop in over half of local authorities in England

A new study finds that 53% of local authorities in England have seen a drop in household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting over the last five years.
Source: Ben Kerckx;

Examining government data for the five-year period up to March 2021, the Recycling-Conscious Report comes as waste disposal industry experts are warning we will miss the UK government’s pledge to eliminate food waste from landfill by 2030.

According to ONS data, households are the biggest contributors to food waste in the UK.

Just 40% of England’s household waste was sent for reuse, recycling or composting between March 2020 and March 2021. London’s rate was just 33%, making it the least recycling-conscious area in England.

Yet London is home to 5 of the top 10 most-improved local authorities, despite the city’s lower overall rate of recycling.

The study, collated by food waste disposer supplier InSinkErator, has analysed data from the Government Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) to look into the recycling mindset across England. It reveals where households in England are taking the biggest steps to reduce waste output and increase recycling and composting rates.

Where are the biggest increases in household waste being recycled or composted?

Areas elsewhere in England are becoming ever less reliant on landfill. Coming top is Stroud, which boasts an 89% improvement in how much waste is sent for reuse, recycling or composting, over the last five years. Second place goes to Lewes, with its 85% improvement over that time period. In third place is the Isles of Scilly, where the rate has shot up by 72%.

Calls for more to be done

In England, recycling and waste is managed by local councils, with no centralised laws introduced by government. Although Whitehall has set targets for waste to be recycled and separate food waste collection rollouts are scheduled for 2023, there is no accountability.

Kevin Carr, UK Sale Director at InSinkErator, says: “While some areas have made incredible progress on recycling in the last few years, England as whole has gone backwards, which is worrying. Just in the UK, our food waste contributes more than 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas to the environment each year.

“As separate food waste collections come into play, households – and councils – have to do more. They need to become more recycling-conscious, building it into everyday routines and processes.

“Part of that is becoming aware of how useful food waste can be. Very few people realise that we can produce electricity from food waste, which is obviously even more of a benefit when fuel costs are so high. Just dumping food into the bin, however, means we’re doing harm, as well as missing out on energy creation. It really is a habit we need to break.”

Susie Burrage, Ambassador & Board member of the Global Recycling Foundation, says: “The biggest impact of household waste not being recycled or composted effectively is increased volumes being sent to landfill. This is resulting in the loss of valuable resources from the urban mine. In first world countries, like the UK, it is estimated 40% of food is wasted. Unlike other streams, food waste recycling is the hardest service in which to get individuals to participate, mainly because it can be smelly, gooey and unpleasant to look at and handle.

“Increasing household engagement may not lead to increasing tonnages, as in other streams, as people often feel guilty when putting out full food waste caddies and this can lead to a reduction in the amount of food they waste in the future. Therefore, changing mindsets to recycle food waste will encourage people to be more conscious of what they are wasting, subsequently waste less and ultimately be less impactful on our planet.”

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