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News analysis: Call for higher recycling targets

Environmentalists called for more ambitious recycling targets to be set in response to last week's publication of the final version of the Municipal Waste Management Survey 2003/04.

Published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the survey confirmed national and regional statistics on municipal waste collection and management by local authorities - most of which were fist published in March.

But the results were promising: the target to recycle and compost 17% of household waste in 2003/04 was met and even exceeded, with a rate of 17.7%.

Future municipal waste recycling targets have been set at 25% by 2005/06, 30% by 2010, and 33% by 2015.

However, Friends of the Earth has again called for recycling targets of 50% by 2010 and 75% by 2015 following publication of the results.

The environmental campaigners said the UK was lagging behind its European neighbours in the recycling stakes, with the Netherlands, Germany and Austria already recycling about 50% of their household waste.

Friends of the Earth recycling campaigner Georgina Bloomfield said: "Recycling in England has been improving, but we need to ensure that the momentum for providing better services continues. The Government should set further statutory targets for local authorities as a matter of urgency to ensure collection services continue to improve. We should be aiming to recycle at least half our waste by 2010, so that we become one of the best recyclers in Europe."

Minister for local environment Ben Bradshaw said the new results were a "step in the right direction", and hoped to see the upward trend continue when provisional results for 2004/05 are released later in the summer. Of the 25% recycling target for 2005/06 he said: "It's achievable but we all need to play our part."

The proportion of municipal waste going into landfill has fallen from 75% in 2002/03 to 72% in 2003/04. The tonnage of waste disposed in landfill has also decreased from 22.1 million tonnes to 20.9 million tonnes. But landfill was still the dominant waste management route for all regions during 2003/04. In the North West, 80% of their waste went to landfill - the highest proportion in the UK. The West Midlands had the lowest proportion of waste going into landfill, an encouraging 53%.

Regional differences were flagged up by the survey. Households in the East of the country are already near the new target of recycling a quarter of their waste, whereas those in the North East and London are only recycling just over a tenth of their waste.

Using kerbside collection schemes could be one way of increasing those low recycling rates.

As MRW reports this week, Ashfield District council saw its recycling rate improve dramatically from 1% to 35% over two years, with the introduction of a twin bin system. Households were provided with an extra green wheelie bin for dry recycling waste, which was collected every fortnight. Weekly collections were alternated between the green wheelie bins and the standard black bins for other household waste. Blue baskets were also provided to households for glass, with collections once a month.

Almost four out of five households are now served by kerbside collection schemes, and the amount of waste collected by such schemes has increased by a massive 52%. MRW reported last month on the success of Rugby Borough Council's recycling dri

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