More household waste was BURNT than recycled in England last year despite the government’s target to reduce the amount of rubbish sent to the incinerator
- Of all waste produced in 2018 just over 11million tonnes was sent to incinerators
- Figures from Defra also showed that recycling rates were down to 9.8million
- In 2017 there was just over 10million tonnes of waste sent for recycling
- Greenpeace UK says it ‘we now seem to be going backwards’ on recycling
Nearly half of all household waste in England was sent to the incinerator last year despite a government target to recycle more.
Of the 22million tonnes of waste produced in 2018, 11.2million tonnes was burnt, according to the latest figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
The amount recycled was 9.8million tonnes – 44.7 per cent of all waste produced – several percentage points short of the government’s 50 per cent recycling target.
‘After failing to move forward for a long time, we’re now going backwards’, said Louise Edge, head of Greenpeace UK’s ocean plastics campaign.
The amount recycled in 2018 was down to 9.8million tonnes, 0.5 per cent down on the amount sent for recycling in 2017 as more waste is sent to be burnt in incinerator such as this one in Newhaven (stock image)
The recycling rate in 2018 was down by 300,000 tonnes on the previous year and more than 1million tonnes below the 2016 recycling rate.
The amount of waste sent to incinerators increased by 400,000 tonnes from 10.8million to 11.2million tonnes between 2017 and 2018.
Defra says the amount of waste sent to incinerators helped to reduce the amount of waste that would have been sent to landfill.
A spokesperson said it was up to councils to manage their own resources and determine the best way to manage waste for their communities.
‘Incineration currently plays a significant role in waste management in the UK but the amount of waste sent to recycling must be maximised ahead of incineration and landfill.’
Map showing the UK local authority areas with the highest and lowest recycling rates in 2018 produced by Defra
Reflecting on the increased rate of incineration, Shlomo Dowen from the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) said it was ‘worrying to see further evidence of how incinerators get in the way of better recycling’.
In its statistics Defra blames part of the drop in recycling rates on the ‘hot dry’ summer reducing the amount of garden waste being recycled.
‘This decrease was mainly due to a sharp decline in the amount of ‘other organics’ recycled in July to September 2018, which was down 16.7 per cent compared to the same period in 2017.
‘This was due to the hot, dry weather experienced in this period, which stunted plant growth’, the report claims.
There was a 14.2 per cent drop in the amount of waste being sent to landfill, down 0.5million tonnes on the 2017 figures to 2.8million tonnes.
This was likely due in part to an increase in the amount of waste being sent for incineration by local councils.
‘Much of what is burned could and should have been recycled or composted instead. To support recycling we need an immediate ban on new incinerators’, said Mr Dowen from UKWIN.
‘The Government has said that if incineration is harming recycling then they would impose a tax on incineration – now is the time for an incineration tax to raise much-needed funding to support local recycling efforts.’
There was a 14.2 per cent drop in the amount of waste being sent to landfill, down 0.5million tonnes on the 2017 figures to 2.8million tonnes (stock image)
Some parts of the country are better at recycling than others.
‘In built-up areas with a higher proportion of flats ‘residents may find it difficult or otherwise be unwilling to store waste for recycling and will produce less garden waste’, the report says.
London had the lowest ‘household waste’ recycling rate at 33.4 per cent. The region with the highest rate was the South West at 50.1 per cent.
East Riding in Yorkshire was the local authority with the highest rate of recycling at 65 per cent with Newham in London at the bottom end with 17 per cent.
A Newham spokesperson said they have been working with residents to encourage them to recycle more and explain what can be recycled in their bins.
‘Next year Newham is proposing to run a number of initiatives with an aim of decreasing the amount of waste our residents produce and increasing recycling rates and quality.
These include a trial in selected parts of the borough to increase recycling collections to a weekly service (from fortnightly), and rolling out more recycling bins to blocks of flats.’
HOW MUCH RECYCLING ENDS UP IN LANDFILL?
Every day, millions of us drop a plastic bottle or cardboard container into the recycling bin – and we feel we’re doing our bit for the environment.
But what we may not realise is that most plastic never gets recycled at all, often ending up in landfill or incineration depots instead.
Of 30 billion plastic bottles used by UK households each year, only 57 per cent are currently recycled, with half going to landfill, half go to waste.
Most plastic never gets recycled at all, often ending up in landfill or incineration depots instead. Around 700,000 plastic bottles a day end up as litter
Around 700,000 plastic bottles a day end up as litter.
This is largely due to plastic wrapping around bottles that are non-recyclable.
Every year, the UK throws away 2.5 billion ‘paper’ cups, amounting to 5,000 cups a minute.
Shockingly, less than 0.4 per cent of these are recycled.
Most cups are made from cardboard with a thin layer of plastic.
This has previously posed issues with recycling but can now be removed .
Five specialist recycling plants in the UK have the capacity to recycle all the cups used on our high-streets.
Ensuring the paper cups end up in these plants and are not discarded incorrectly is one of the biggest issues facing the recycling of the paper vessels.