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Deteriorating UK Recycling Performance – WM Sector Bodies Say UK Government Must Act

Deteriorating UK Recycling Performance image.Deteriorating UK Recycling Performance is a fact, but the UK government claims that support for Brexit does not mean that the nation will turn its back on EU sustainability targets. They suggest that the UK will continue to apply EU regulations for the protection of the environment.

But, this must be questionable after news this month of a deteriorating UK recycling performance.

This is all the more surprising because the government would seem to have forgotten their previous firm commitments, still officially in place, for recycling rates to be raised further. It is difficult to imagine how stringent new targets can now be achieved against this stark reality.

Professional Body CIWM Says UK’s Recycling Performance is Slipping Backwards (December 2016)

Image shows the household waste recycling rate in England from 2000 to 2017.

Update Note: The 0.7 rise in the recycling rate in 2016/17, is more due to incinerator ash being included for the first time throughout the UK, than any real rise in recycling rates during 2016/17.

Graph Shows the household waste recycling rate in England from 2000 to 2017

After strong progress for more than a decade, it is disappointing to see the UK’s recycling performance starting to slip backward. CIWM and other sector bodies have been predicting this for some time and Westminster must now sit up, take notice, and demonstrate its commitment to recycling.

Difficult market conditions have affected all UK countries, with local authority funding cuts also playing a part, particularly in England. Wales and Scotland have demonstrated that clear policies, targets, and focused efforts can maintain momentum and indeed provide long-term savings to councils. However, with England generating 83% of UK household waste they cannot do it alone. Firm endorsement of the WRAP consistency work would help, but we now need a strong push from the Westminster administration. via

The problem started in England, and although there is probably some recycling fatigue among householders, much of the problem must rest with the cutbacks in new waste processing investment which started as soon as the 2010 coalition government took over from labour in 2010.

Falling Recycling Rates in England Since 2013/14 Admitted by UK Government

England’s household annual recycling rates have fallen for the first time since modern records began with 2015-2016 England recycling rate falling to 43.9% vs. 44.7% in 2014/15 vs. 44.5% 2013/14, according to figures released this week by Defra.

However, the news was not all bad for high achieving councils. South Oxfordshire District Council maintained its title as England’s best recycling council for the third year in a row. via

How the Situation Has Changed Since 2014 When WRAP Was Writing Glowing Reports on How Wonderful the UK Was at Recycling

To observers, it was always obvious that the big strides in recycling performance, which was being achieved in England pre-2014, were mostly due to long-term UK Public Private Investment (PPI) projects which had been started by the last labour government.

The coalition government, for the most part, scrapped the remaining PPI projects which had not been awarded, but failed to replace them with much at all. It was inevitable that as the last of the previous Labour Government’s waste processing waste management facility investment initiatives came into use, recycling rates would fail to rise.

However, this reversal must be due to other factors, such as an increasing reluctance in the population to mess around with separating their waste, and to an extent, it may be due to the rising population of the UK due to immigration.

Sadly, in part, the problem may also arise from the right wing UK Press, and especially from unremittingly bad press publicity in the Daily Mail.

The following extract is from a 2014 WRAP (UK government funded body) report, and seems to be rather out of date now:

The UK recycling industry is a fantastic success story and year on year we have recovered and recycled more and more materials contributing to the Circular Economy whilst creating jobs and thus a multi-billion pound industry to support UK PLC. This should be celebrated and if the Daily Mail were to report this in a positive light, it would have a far better impact on our environment than their persistent negative reporting.

Recycling Minister Rory Stewart CC BY-NC-ND by UK Prime Minister

Perhaps the Daily Mail should have reported the work being coordinated by WRAP and supported by cross-industry organisations to streamline municipal recycling collection systems as recommended by Recycling Minister Rory Stewart. Another example of how the industry is reacting and striving year on year to improve performance.

Sure, we can always improve and evolve, and paper cups are a case in point. Yet the Daily Mail article fails to properly address the positive steps that are being taken with the fact that the James Cropper papermaking group have invested £5 million into the technology to recover and recycle paper coffee cups and we know that waste management companies in the UK are talking to the coffee cup producers to find solutions for their effective recovery. We have made great strides in identifying a small problem and finding solutions to it. via

WRAP may have considered that they had a small problem at that time, but it is much bigger now.

Maybe the UK population cares less now than it did, about the environment than a few years ago, in the face of rising inequality and stagnant or falling wages?

We welcome your comments on this.

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