Recycling rates plateau for fifth year in a row

Recycling rates remain flat, with cities suppressing the overall UK rate, according to SUEZ, which has released an interactive map containing local authority recycling data.

Recycling rates for the 2019/20 financial year show that England and Scotland have plateaued for the fifth consecutive year, with large cities, such as Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow suppressing the UK average.

England achieved an average recycling performance of around 45.5%, while Scotland achieved 44.9%, representing increases of just 0.4% and 0.2% respectively.

Around 84% of the UK population lives in urban areas, yet recycling rates continue to trend lower, with 14 London local authorities reporting rates of below 30%. Other areas which fell into the below 30% ‘red zone’ include Redditch, Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Southampton, Exeter and Brighton, among others.

Meanwhile, Wales continues to lead the way, with 20 local authorities exceeding rates of  60% recycling, with Cardiff lagging just behind at 58%. Wales’ average recycling rate was 65.1%, a 2.3% increase on the previous year.

If performance in England and Scotland continues to plateau, both governments will fall short of their respective targets. In August 2020, DEFRA announced targets to recycle 65% of municipal waste by 2035, which has been achieved by Wales. Scotland aims to recycle 70% of its waste by 2025, which is 25% more than they currently achieve.

John Scanlon, chief executive officer of SUEZ 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.”

Stuart Hayward-Higham, technical development director for SUEZ UK said: “In order to get our recycling rates where they need to be by 2035, we need a clear understanding of where they are now. This digital tool helps us improve our understanding by visualising patterns and areas that are underperforming so that we can pinpoint obstacles, like demographic differences or geographic challenges, and make informed changes to address them. By highlighting the local authorities that are leading the country in recycling, the map also creates a valuable opportunity to learn from their success.”

View the interactive map here.

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