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Landfill amounts down, but recycling still needs help

By Rebecca Thyer

The amount of waste landfilled in England has dropped by 331,000 tonnes to 1999 levels, the first drop in recent years.

And according to provisional statistics from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), household waste recycling increased by two percentage points to reach 14.5%.

The latest Municipal Waste Management Survey said that in past years recycling and composting had only increased by about one percentage point, while landfilled amounts stayed the same or increased. However, the Governments Waste Strategy aimed to hit a recycling rate of 25% by 2005.

Nevertheless, Environment Minister Elliot Morley welcomed the results saying they confirmed earlier predictions that the UK would meet a 17% recycling rate for 2003/4.

The results confirm what Ive been seeing for some time now that local authorities across the country are working hard to manage waste more sustainably. This is real evidence of the step change advocated by the Prime Minister in the Strategy Units 2002 report Waste Not, Want Not.

However, environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth believed the Government was losing the waste battle and the UK looked set to miss its 2005 recycling target.

Waste campaigner Clare Wilton said: The Government is clearly not doing enough to tackle the UKs waste crisis and seems set to miss its target of recycling a quarter of household waste by 2005. Increasing amounts of waste are being generated, and far too little is recycled. An effective plan to dramatically reduce the amount of waste we produce is desperately needed. Ministers must also do more to ensure that local authorities speed up the introduction of comprehensive doorstep-recycling collections for every household.


The amount of municipal waste disposed of in landfill decreased slightly from 22.3 million tonnes in 2001/2 to 22m tonnes in 2002/3. The proportion of municipal waste disposed of in landfill decreased from 77% to 75% over the same period.

Morley said he was encouraged by this result. I hope this continues as we have relied on landfill as an unsustainable, convenient option for waste management for far too many years in England. That convenience has to stop.

However, waste reduction may also need to be tackled, something the Local Government Association believed should be worked into local authority targets. Last week it said it wanted to see more focus on and incentives for reduction in overall waste arisings, including reuse and minimisation.

The latest DEFRA figures showed that municipal waste arisings rose by 1.8% to 29.3m tonnes compared with 28.8m tonnes for 2001/2. Household waste arisings also rose by 1.1% to 25.8m tonnes in 2002/3 up from 25.6m tonnes.

About 521kg of household waste per person per year was collected in 2002/3 compared with 517kg in 2001/2, an increase of 0.8%. In absolute terms the amount of household waste collected for recycling increased by 17% from 3.2m tonnes in 2001/2 to 3.7m tonnes in 2002/3.

DEFRA said that over the past six years the amount of household waste recycled has more than doubled. An increase in kerbside collection could be part of the reason.

Kerbside recycling accounted for 34% of total household recycling in the last year compared with 31% in 2001/2. However, the proportion from civic amenity and bring sites was 66%, down from 69% in 2001/2.

This could be due to the fact that the proportion of households served by a kerbside recycling scheme increased from 58% in 2001/2 to 66% in 2002/3.

And for the first time, the most recycled material was compostable waste with more than 1m tonnes recycled 32% of the total in 2002/3. Paper was the next most common material at 30% of the total, followed by glass at 13%. u

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