How councils manage their waste collection is the single biggest factor affecting recycling rates, accounting for variations of between 39% and 65%, according to WRAP.
It also found that food waste collection, frequency and smaller residual bins all have an impact.
Researchers analysed data from 239 councils of different types that collect paper, card, cans, glass and plastic bottles from 80% or more of their households. In total, 60% of all UK authorities with responsibility for collection services were included in the study.
The report found that, regardless of the type of council, local authorities had the largest effect on rates in comparison with other factors such as location or social make-up.
The most significant factors across councils were:
- food waste collection – those collecting food waste tend to have higher recycling rates than those with none
- the size of the container for residual waste and collection frequency, which WRAP has combined into a single measure
The study concluded that there is little difference in recycling rates whichever dry recycling schemes is used: commingled, two-stream or multi-stream.
Factors such as location or demographics were found to be less significant than the local authority’s policy, affecting rates by between 16% and 29%.
Linda Crichton, head of resource management at WRAP, said: “Recycling rates vary throughout the UK just as they do in other countries, and the reasons for this are complex.
“They can be within the control of an authority or contextual factors, such as demographics, that are beyond the authority’s control. Being able to quantify the degree to which each affect recycling is hugely important for an authority, and this report will help make that possible.”