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England's landfill tonnage overtaken for first time

More local authority waste in England has been recycled, composted or reused this year than has gone to landfill - the first time this has happened since records began.

The latest figures for 2011/12 also show that councils reached a 43% recycling rate, although Defra notes that the rate of increase is levelling off, with this being the lowest year-on-year increase for ten years.

The total amount of waste managed by local authorities fell by 2.7% in 2011/12, to 25.6 million tonnes - total waste generation has been falling steadily since 2007/8, on average by 2.6% per year.

According to the latest figures, English authorities recycled, composted or reused 10.7 million tonnes of the waste. Although this is greater than the landfill figure for the first time, Defra notes that an increase in incineration may have partly accounted for the change in landfill tonnage.

“The proportion of this waste which was landfilled continued its historic downward trend with 9.6 million tonnes being managed in this way - a 16% reduction in quantity terms on the previous year.

“However, incineration increased by around one quarter from the previous year, to 4.9 million tonnes. It is difficult to determine if this increase in incineration reflects any long term change in approach local authorities have taken in their choices on waste treatment options at the local level.”

Resource management minister Lord de Mauley said: “Across the country, people are cutting the amount of waste going to landfill by recycling more. They are not only protecting the environment, but fuelling a growing industry that reuses the things they throw away. 

“More still needs to be done and we continue to push towards our aim of a zero waste economy, with businesses, councils and householders all doing their bit.”

Vale of White Horse District Council occupies the number one spot in Defra’s list of England’s top recycling authorities, achieving 68.7%. Neighbour South Oxfordshire District Council, which shares a Biffa contract with Vale of White Horse, was second with 67.9% rate.

Environmental Services Association’s director of policy, Matthew Farrow, said: “Our members have been working tirelessly with their local authority customers to deliver greater recycling levels, and deserve much credit.

“However, whilst 43% of household waste was recycled, the rate of increase is slowing and more needs to be done to reduce the UK’s use of landfill. With the Green Investment Bank recently being cleared by the EU, we hope a network of new waste treatment facilities will help move waste up the hierarchy.”

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