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Defra document says action may be needed to hit 50% recycling target

Defra has played down the suggestion it has conceded for the first time that the UK is unlikely to hit the 2020 target for recycling household waste.

About a dozen stakeholders in waste management and local government are due to meet department officials on Wednesday to consider the 50% goal and the plateauing of the all-important England rate at around 44%.

Ahead of the event, Defra has prepared a paper for discussion which contains the phrase: “it seems unlikely that we can achieve 50% without further action”.

Colin Church, Defra’s director for resource and waste, told MRW the document was an internal briefing document, not an official paper, and the stakeholders’ meeting was part of a continuing discussion with the sector.

“We have always said we will see if more is needed, but we are not saying that is the case definitively,” he said, adding that the phrase in the document about “further action” indicated it was an observation of others, not Defra.

Church said the discussions were in the spirit of considering what were realistic approaches to increasing the recycling rate.

He pointed out that the rate was affected by a set of pressures “some helpful, some unhelpful”. On the one hand, fewer newspapers are being read, reducing paper recycling while, on the other, London is committed to a 50% rate within the capital which, if achieved, would have a big impact on the national figure. 

The extract was tweeted by Roy Hathaway on his personal account. He is a former civil servant who is now a consultant on waste and resources policy for the Environmental Services Association.


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