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Scottish household recycling rate rises

Scotland’s household waste recycling rate in 2016 was 45.2%, an increase of one percentage point on the previous year, according to official figures released by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).

The total amount of household waste generated in Scotland was 2.5 million tonnes in 2016, an increase of 30,000 tonnes (1.2%) on 2015. There was a 19,000 tonne (1.6%) decrease in household waste disposed of to landfill, which Sepa attributed to increased recycling and incineration.

In total, the amount landfilled in Scotland last year was 3.72 million tonnes, a decrease of 465,000 tonnes from the year before. The quantity of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) disposed to landfill in 2016 was 1.08 million tonnes.

Meanwhile the total quantity of waste incinerated in 2016 was 683,112 tonnes. This is an increase of 4.3% from 2015 and an increase of 66.6% from 2011.

It is the first time official statistics have also been published specifically for all waste landfilled and waste incinerated within Scotland during 2016.

Included in the data is the amount of waste generated, landfilled, recycled and diverted from landfill by each of the 32 local authorities in Scotland. This reveals that East Renfrewshire has the highest recycling rate at 60.8%, while the Shetland Islands has a recycling rate of only 7.9%. Glasgow City, which generates the most waste at 216,873 tonnes, has a recycling rate of 25.2%. City of Edinburgh generates 193,333 tonnes and has a recycling rate of 44.6%.

Data published by Defra in December 2016 showed the household waste recycling rate for England was 43.9%, down from 44.7% the year before. It marked the first time that the English household waste recycling rate had been lower than 44% since 2011. 

Scottish environment minister Roseanna Cunningham said the figures showed what was possible when “people make the most of their recycling service”.

She added: “We do need to see more progress, particularly in our big cities. While we have made a commitment to introduce a deposit return system for Scotland, I have been clear that I want to see real progress from local authorities towards our household recycling targets, and I will consider using further measures to help achieve that if the pace of improvement does not increase.

“With 26 Councils now signed up to the Household Recycling Charter, we are now well on the way towards a more consistent approach to recycling. This will make it easier for people to put the right things in the right bin, as well as increasing recycling rates. I will continue to urge the remaining local authorities to sign up to this Charter.”

  • This story was updated on 28 September with comment from Cunningham

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