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Hold the champagne...

It is welcome news that household waste recycling in England has reached 43% and that more waste was recycled, composted or reused in 2011/12 than was landfilled for the first time since records began.

Whatever the underlying reasons, we should also celebrate the fact that household waste volumes have been falling steadily since 2007/8. Collectively, the industry has stimulated and supported a big change in behaviour in little over a decade, and we should spare time to reflect on this success.

However, the battle is far from won, much less the war. A lot of hard work still lies ahead to hit our target of 50% recycling by 2020, let alone aspire to the ambitious Scottish and Welsh targets of 70% by 2025.

The rate of increase in England is dropping off significantly, and we have yet to really get a handle on the tougher challenge of waste prevention.

As a sector we know that we have picked the low-hanging fruit and engaged those who wanted to see themselves as ‘committed recyclers’. Now we have to reach those who don’t, won’t, or can’t care as much.

Communication has improved but, in these tough times, it is easy to see how recycling and prevention could fall victim to budgets cuts and more pressing domestic priorities.

We need to push the messages home, and ensure that waste continues to be seen as integral to the creation of a more efficient and green society.

CIWM chief executive Steve Lee

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