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UK Recycling Rate Increased, According to Latest Statistics

The latest figures by Defra have revealed an increase in the UK recycling rate for waste from households.

The ‘UK Statistics on Waste’ report provides the waste statistics and a breakdown of figures for each type of waste disposal, such as packaging waste and biodegradable municipal waste. The latest data, which was published on the 22 February, shows the amount of waste from households has increased by 0.6 per cent, going from 44.6 per cent in 2015 to 45.2 per cent in 2016.

Increases can be seen across each country. The recycling rate for England was 44.9 per cent, compared with 43.0 per cent in Northern Ireland and 42.8 per cent in Scotland. Wales continues to outperform the rest of the UK, standing at 57.3 per cent.

The latest increase has, in part, been attributed to the inclusion of metals recovered from incinerator bottom ash (IBA) into the recycling figures, which would previously have been reported as ‘recovery’ of waste.

In releasing the latest data, Defra has substantially revised previously published commercial and industrial waste generation estimates for 2010 and 2012-2014 for England following consultation with industry, a detailed review of the previous methodology and comparisons with alternative data sources.

The 2012 published figure of 24.2 million tonnes for England has been revised upwards from 24.2 million tonnes to 34.2 million tonnes and the 2014 figure of 19.8 million tonnes for England has been increased to 32.8 million tonnes.

The report show that the UK remains well above the minimum packaging waste recycling targets set by the Packaging Waste Directive.

In 2016, 71.4 per cent of UK packaging waste was either recycled or recovered, with every packaging material surpassing EU recycling targets. This was above the EU target of 60 per cent and higher than the 64.7 per cent achieved in 2015.

Plastics reached 44.9 per cent against an EU target of 22.5 per cent for the year and metal achieved a recycling rate of 68.7 per cent while the EU target was 50 per cent.

Despite these latest figures from Defra showing an overall increase in recycling, they continue to remain short of the EU’s 50 per cent target to be achieved by 2020 and concerns have been raised about the UK’s ability to meet it.

Environmental Services Association (ESA) Executive Director, Jacob Hayler, said: “While the UK’s 2016 recycling rate for waste from households shows an improvement over 2015, partly due to the inclusion of IBA metals, it provides further proof that on current policies, the UK will not reach 50 per cent recycling by 2020, let alone the higher rates provisionally agreed at EU level. As ESA has already pointed out, Defra’s impending resources and waste strategy will need to address the issue of sustainable markets for recyclable materials, as well as the UK’s residual waste capacity gap.”

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