“Disappointing” was one of the adjectives the industry most used to describe the latest statistics on recycling rates in England, with many calling for more Government intervention to revert the stalling trend.
According to Defra Data, 44.16% of “waste from household” was reused, recycled or composted in 2013, up from 44.11% in 2012, the smallest rise since the UK committed to a 50% target by 2020.
It was the first time that the “waste from household” definition was applied, which is the revised measure Defra will use to report to the European Union.
If the previous “local authority collected waste” is considered, the recycling rate results even lower, 43.5% for 2013-14, but experienced a larger year-on-year increase of 0.3 percentage points.
The Environmental Services Association (ESA) said the figures showed the continuation of a “worrying trend”.
“Defra needs to be making fresh interventions to help local authorities and their private sector partners introduce the services needed to reach the 50% target,” said Jacob Hayler, economist at the ESA.
Dan Cooke, director of external affairs at Viridor said that Defra’s stepping back from waste policy last year was a “missed opportunity”.
“We need government to step forward, not backwards, in providing clearer support in incentivising best practice whilst tackling waste crime,” he said. “Only then will we significantly improve rates of recycling in England and truly maximise the potential of a national renewable resource.”
Kristian Dales, sales and marketing director at FCC Environment, said that a more standardised approach to collections was needed, as well as fiscal incentives to boost secondary materials’ rates.
MRW understands Defra will review figures from across local authorities to asses if most of them showed declining rates or some of councils experienced larger than average drops and will then act accordingly.
MRW also understands the department considers figures for 2014 as more encouraging given an increase in garden waste composting in the first half of the year.
Defra has officially said it is working with WRAP to see what further measures may be needed to achieve the 2020 target.
Liz Goodwin, chief executive at WRAP, said that she had hoped the data would have indicated more progress towards the target, but they clearly showed a need to “redouble our efforts”.
“We need to get people to recycle more things more often,” she said. “And we need to communicate better with them, because we only have 25% of people who know exactly what to put in the bin all the time. That’s quite a small number.”