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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
life
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative - Unskilled & Skilled

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen to jo...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Law Firm - Bromley

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Market...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen Fitter / Kitchen Fitters Mate

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This designer and manufacturer ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee