Recycling rates continue to plateau across country

SUEZ recycling and recovery UK has released an interactive digital map of local authority recycling data, showing recycling rates for the 2019/20 financial year and the change over the previous period.

It found that, after a decade of rapid improvement across the home nations, recycling rates in England and Scotland plateaued for the fifth consecutive year, with large cities restricting the UK average. SUEZ says that this ‘sluggish’ overall trend reiterates the need for extended producer responsibility and a consistent collections policy that makes efficient use of existing kerbside collection systems, capturing a wider range of materials for recycling and helping the rest of the UK match the performance seen in Wales.

The map has been designed to provide users with an easy-to-use, interactive reference tool which will help bring the data to life outside of spreadsheets, hopefully encouraging more engagement and reflection from residents and local authority leaders alike. It has also been launched with the aim of being a baseline from which to start to measure success, as new policies are implemented following the publication of the government’s Waste and Resources Plan and the plethora of actions and ongoing consultations.

It allows users to click on individual local authorities to view the percentage of household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting in the 2019/20 financial year, along with the percent change from the previous period.

The colour coding of the map aims to group local authorities relative to the national average recycling rate and the UK’s ‘Circular Economy Package’ 2035 target of 65 per cent. Basing the average national recycling rate in the middle of the scale and the target at the top, local authorities falling below 30 per cent have been coloured red, those between 30-40 per cent coloured amber, 40-50 per cent yellow, 50-60 per cent green and those achieving 60 per cent of higher have been coloured dark green.  

Urban areas of England and Scotland, which account for so much of the UK’s population, continue to trend lower, with 14 London local authorities reporting recycling rates of below 30 per cent, along with Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow. Wales continues to lead the way, with 20 local authorities exceeding 60 per cent recycling and Cardiff lagging just behind at 58 per cent.

Based on the most recent officially reported annual statistics, local authorities in England achieved an average recycling performance of around 45.5 per cent while Scotland achieved 44.9 per cent and Wales continues to pull ahead with 65.1 per cent. Suez says that, if performance continues to improve at this rate, both England and Scotland will fall years short of their respective government’s targets.

John Scanlon, CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, said: “With the government consultations on extended producer responsibility and consistent collections taking place this spring, we have a significant opportunity to work across the value chain and make holistic changes that will maximise the efficiency of existing kerbside collection systems and drive growth in recycling rates across the country. We are releasing this digital tool today to set a clear baseline and to establish a metric to measure our success against as we start to implement these changes over the coming years. The lacklustre recycling growth reflected on the map just reiterates the importance of the current government consultations and how vital it is that we get these policies right so that we can continue moving forward together.”

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