The carbon story is quite good. The 11.5 Mtonnes of waste recycled is leading to a 7 Mtonne reduction in Carbon dioxide emissions. The biggest contributors are food, paper and card and glass. The most “efficient” in terms of carbon saved are textiles, but recycling rates are low. Only the recycling of composite materials gave a negative value.
But the figures also showed the effect on carbon emissions of EfW. There 5 Mtonnes processed led to an increase in carbon dioxide of 2.5 Mtonnes. EfW is now growing faster than recycling and, with a recycling target of just 50% in England, should eventually grow to half the waste stream. If that happens additional emissions from EfW could be around 7 Mtonnes and almost completely offset the 8 Mtonnes which would be saved by recycling.
The last published analysis of household waste composition showed that residual waste is largely made up of food waste, paper/card, and textiles. All capable of being recycled and all offering big carbon benefits. Those figures are dated and new ones are in preparation. But I would bet my shirt that while the totals are smaller, the composition is largely the same.
Just another compelling reason for increasing our recycling targets.
Phillip Ward, Resource Futures, and former Defra director