Calderdale Council has said its decision to focus on refuse-derived fuel (RDF) in order to save money has significantly decreased its recycling rate, which is down by more than 14 percentage points.
Recent Defra figures show that the council’s household recycling rate has dropped from 60.4% in 2014-15 to 46.3% in 2015-16, the biggest decrease of all councils in England.
Calderdale was one of just 11 councils last year to achieve a rate of more than 60%.
A council report estimated that around nine percentage points of this fall was due to an increase in RDF production as a result of a renewed waste treatment contract with Associated Waste Management (AWM).
It also estimated the severe flooding last year contributed three percentage points while two came from a decline in kerbside recycling collections.
The council has set up a working group with collection contractor Suez to target households with low participation in recycling.
According to Calderdale, the previous high recycling rate occurred largely because the waste treatment contractor was “extracting further recyclate from the residual waste”.
Barry Collins (pictured right), Calderdale’s cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, told MRW that the AWM contract signed in September last year focused “more on diversion from landfill than extracting recyclate”.
He added: “The contract offers a good level of recycling in a normal year. But by reducing the amount of waste to landfill, we are achieving environmental and financial benefits and also producing increased amounts of RDF.
“The council continues to work proactively with the waste disposal contractor to increase recycling rates wherever possible.”
Last year AWM business development director Tim Shapcott said his aim was to reach a 100% landfill diversion rate “through improved recycling, investment in technology and the full utilisation of our partnership with the newly commissioned Ferrybridge Multifuel incinerator”.
The floods last December hit more than 2,000 homes and 1,000 businesses in Calderdale, generating an estimated additional 2,500 tonnes of residual waste for collection.
Collins said: “Obviously the Boxing Day disaster affected our overall performance, but we are determined to bring Calderdale’s recycling rates back to their previously high levels, and are working hard with Suez through our new waste and recycling contract to achieve this.”
The latest indicates a figure of 16.7% to landfill.
The council issued Suez with a financial penalty in August this year following an “unacceptable number” of missed collections.