England will not meet its 2020 recycling targets unless the rate of recycling improves faster than it is currently according to the Environmental Services Association (ESA).
The latest recycling figures from Defra show that the overall rate in 2014 was a record high of 44.8%, up from 44.2% in 2013 and was driven by a 9.9% increase in organics recycling compared to the previous 12 months.
However, the Q4 rate of 42% was a decline on the same quarter the year before of 0.7%.
Both are significantly below the 2020 target for the UK as a whole of 50%. While Scotland and Wales are on course, English figures dominate the overall total and few experts believe the UK can meet the target without a shift in policy.
Defra’s commentary on the Q4 figures indicates the fall was largely driven by a 5.2% decrease in ‘other organics’ recycling which includes green garden waste, mixed garden and food waste, wood for composting and other compostable waste.
ESA executive director Jacob Hayler said: “It is positive to see that England’s recycling rate hit a new high of 44.8% in 2014. However, if we are to hit our 2020 recycling targets then the pace of increase will clearly have to improve.
“Three quarters of the improvement in annual performance came from higher rates of organics recycling and, as local authority budgets continue to be squeezed going forward, we need to ensure that these trends aren’t reversed.”
Meanwhile, Sally Talbot, LARAC vice chair, said: “While some will no doubt concentrate on the overall recycling rate the increases in dry and food recycling show our members are still introducing new services and aiming to hit the 50% target.
“This is all the more commendable given the ongoing squeeze of council budgets and the certainty that more are to come. However the figures show that people are consuming again and the increase in overall waste arisings is something that needs to be tackled at a national level.
“Local authorities have done sterling work in this area but it is time to recognise that there is only so much we can do.”