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UK recycling catches up with the Continent but there's more to do

Recent waste data from the Government shows that the UK is catching up with its European neighbours on the waste and recycling performance front.
 
Recycling rates continue their upward trajectory, reaching 33.9%, while waste is decreasing. So its good news so far from the Governments provisional findings. But are the results enough to allow ourselves a little breather? Definitely not.
 
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) WasteDataFlow results show household waste has fallen from 25.8 million to 25.6 million tonnes, while waste sent to landfill also fell from 16.9 million to 15.8 million tonnes. 
 
Household recycling rates went up from an average 30.9% between April 2006 and March 2007 to 33.9% between January and December 2007. 
 
Overall municipal waste decreased by just under 0.3 million tonnes, dropping from 29.1 million tonnes to 28.8 million tonnes, or 1%. And residual household waste in weight per head went down to 334kg per head between January and December 2007 from 353kg per head between April 2006 and March 2007.
 
Environment Minister Joan Ruddock hailed the results as evidence that local authorities and householders efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle are starting to pay off. 
 
She said: We know we cant keep throwing rubbish into landfill. My postbag is full of letters from people saying they want to recycle more. But unless they know their efforts are making a real difference they wont keep trying. 
 
Thats why statistics like these are so important. The figures are provisional we will know the full picture by the end of the year but the early results show those efforts continue to be worthwhile. Local authorities and their residents are making good progress. 
 
We still have some way to go before we are performing at the level of some of our nearest neighbours in Europe. But we
are catching them up, and positive feedback like this should encourage all of us to keep up
the effort to reduce and recycle our rubbish.
 
Local Government Association Environment Board chairman Paul Bettison agreed with the positive outlook and said: It is very encouraging to see people doing their bit for the environment by recycling more and reducing this countrys reliance on landfill. More than a third of household waste is now being recycled and local people and local councils deserve credit for this continuing improvement.
 
However, he reiterated a position that he has long held, saying: While these figures are another step in the right direction, there is still much more to do. Britain is the dustbin of Europe and dumps more waste into the ground than any other country in the EU.
 
This is costing the council taxpayer dearly in landfill taxes. Councils are still facing fines of up to £3 billion if we do not dramatically reduce the amount of waste thrown into landfill. It is vital we look at alternatives to the status quo to deliver an ever better deal for the taxpayer.
 
An LGA spokesman added: While the [nearly] 34% rate is better than it has been its still not enough theres no room for complacency. 
 
About 60% of household waste can be recycled, so there are still some people who are not doing it. More work needs to be done, whether it be expanding services or taking steps to increase participation.
 
Final figures will be available as part of the annual National Statistics release in November 2008.
 Municipal waste includes household waste and recycling, as well as waste from parks, public gardens, beaches, civic amenity sites and clearance of fly tips.
 Seasonal fluctuations were minimised by comparing the year April 2006 to March 2007 with the year January to December 2007, which included the latest provisional results.


KEY RESULTS FROM WASTEDATAFLOW
 Household waste is down from 25.8m to 25.6m tonnes;
 Waste sent to landfill is down from 16.9 to 15.8m tonnes;
 Average household recycling rates increased to 33.9%; and
 Municipal waste reduced overall from 29.1m to 28.8m tonnes.


RESULTS VALIDATION
Information was supplied to WasteDataFlow by local authorities. However, results are provisional because not all returns have completed the full validation process. Of the 394 local authorities
that submitted data, returns from seven had not completed validation. This uncertainty equates to about 1% of the estimated total
municipal waste. Returns to WasteDataFlow can also be revised by local authorities during the year.

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