Recycling rates soar in England, but still trail Europeans

A A A

Britain's belated conversion to recycling, long after most of the rest of Europe, is finally paying off, government figures indicated yesterday. Recycling of household waste in England has doubled in the past four years.

Households are now recycling more than a fifth of their waste - almost 23 per cent - the figures published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show.

Although this is far behind the remarkable rates prevailing in some European countries such as Norway (68 per cent), The Netherlands (64 per cent) and Germany (57 per cent), it is a huge improvement on Britain's past performance.

Nine years ago we were recycling just 7.5 per cent of our rubbish and languishing at the bottom of the European recycling league table, on a par with countries such as Ireland and Greece.

Since then, the Government has introduced a comprehensive waste strategy, largely driven by the impetus of a forthcoming European law, the landfill directive, which will enforce a massive reduction in the amount of waste which can be disposed of in rubbish dumps.

A key part of the strategy has been a campaign to boost recycling, which has given local councils mandatory recycling targets and funding to help with doorstep collections of different types of waste, and featured a £10m national TV advertising advertising campaign to help householders get the recycling habit.

It has resulted in a doubling of the recycling rate from 11.2 per cent in 2000-01 to 22.7 per cent in the year ending April 2005.

Performance around the country varies with residents in the north-east England recycling the least (16 per cent) and people in the east recycling the most (29 per cent). The greatest leap has been in the east Midlands, up 7 per cent on last year to 27 per cent.

"These figures prove how much more people understand the importance of recycling compared with just four years ago," said Ben Bradshaw, minister for Local Environmental Quality. "There's no doubt we can be proud of our progress to date, but now it's time to build on that and start catching up with some of Europe's top recyclers.

"Every person in England is currently recycling enough to fill eight green wheelie bins [a year], but we could be recycling as much as 20 bins' worth - up to 60 per cent of our waste - and local authorities will have to look at improving their recycling rates too.

"We want to be well on the way to our 2010 target of 30 per cent of waste being recycled - sooner rather than later. Some of our European counterparts are doing it, some parts of this country are too, so it is not an unrealistic goal."

Friends of the Earth said the Government should introduce an economic incentive for people to recycle more, by charging householders according to the amount of waste they produce.

Householders would pay this 'variable rate' in place of the existing charge in their council tax, so conscientious recyclers would save money and homes which generate excessive waste would pay more than they do at present.

"Such schemes are common in Europe and have dramatically reduced waste and improved recycling rates," said Georgina Bloomfield, the group's recycling campaigner. "If we are serious about tackling waste then we need to give councils the power to charge householders a variable rate according to the amount they produce."

On average, every person in Britain produces about seven times their own weight in waste a year, with households in England producing a total of 25 million tons of waste annually. More than half of this consists of garden waste, waste paper, cardboard and kitchen waste. If all the aluminium drinks cans sold in the UK were recycled there would be 14 million fewer dustbins of waste each year.

Jennie Price, chief executive of the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) said:"We all care about the environment in one way or another, and the great thing about recycling is that it's a really easy way in which we can each make an individual contribution."

Defra will publish a consultation shortly with proposals for new statutory performance standards for 2007-08.

Paula Barrett, 21: 'I always re-use as much as possible'

After several years of setting aside her green waste, Paula Barrett's first batch of nutrient-rich compost is almost ready.

But although she manages to recycle about 80 per cent of her household waste, she still has a huge challenge on her hands. Paula, an office worker, shares her suburban semi in Clifton, Bristol, with four others, none of whom have shown much interest in recycling.

Every week she sifts her paper, metal and glass and places them in the local council's "black box" kerbside recycling scheme - leaving half a bag of waste for landfill or incineration. But her housemates' waste piles up.

She said: "Recycling is always something I've been interested in. I always take clothes to charity shops, turn down carrier bags at the supermarket and re-use as much as possible.

"I consciously avoid products with too much packaging. Our council does not collect plastics and they have to be taken to banks elsewhere, which is difficult for people without cars."

Elaine Barker

News
peopleJonathan Ross has got a left-field suggestion to replace Clarkson
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Arts and Entertainment
Written protest: Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, has sent an open letter to the Culture Secretary
books
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss