Following on from our recent post concerning how much waste is produced in the UK each year, this got us wondering about how London might compare with the rest of England when it comes to the recycling of household waste. Well, it didn’t take long to find the DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) stats, and the findings aren’t that impressive.

Unfortunately, according to the report, us Londoners are at the bottom of the pile when comparing London household recycling rates to other regions in the UK. Or to put it another way, we top the list for having the worst record for recycling our daily waste at home. But, don’t despair as there are mitigating circumstances that may help to alleviate any pangs of guilt you may be feeling. First, let’s take a look at the actual numbers to see what they reveal.

In the graph below, you can see that not much has changed between the 2017/18 and 2018/19 years and both years, London achieved the lowest percentage rates for recycling, with the South West of England coming out best with a little over 50%


Household waste recycling rates in England


What reasons are there for London being the worst?

If it makes you feel any better, the report does indeed suggest valid reasons to help mitigate our low recycling rates. Firstly, a significant influence is how heavily populated an area is, the kind of housing present, and the level of other organic or garden waste collected. As an example, in built-up areas with a higher proportion of flats, residents may find it difficult or otherwise be unwilling to store waste for recycling and won’t be producing organic or garden waste for collection. As a result, this will reduce recycling rates for these authorities. Similarly, authorities with higher recycling rates are likely to be advantaged by good householder response to recycling schemes and a higher tonnage of organic or garden waste being collected.

Read the full report

In the lengthy report (which you can see in full here), the key points for the report concerning waste from English Households for 2018/2019 can be seen in the document, but if you don’t have time to read it, here is the summary:

  • The official England ‘waste from households’ recycling rate was 44.7% in 2018, down 0.5% from 45.2% in 2017. Metal recovered and then recycled from waste that has been through incineration (IBA metal) added approximately 0.9% to the recycling rate in 2018.
  • In 2018, total ‘waste from households’ decreased to 22.0 million tonnes, a 1.8% decline from 2017, in which it was 22.4 million tonnes. This is equivalent to 394 kg per person, down from 403 kg per person in 2017, a decrease of 2.2%.
  • The amount of residual waste treated was 12.2 million tonnes, down from 12.3 million tonnes in 2017. This was a decrease of 0.9%.
  • The amount of total waste recycled also decreased. In 2018, it was 9.8 million tonnes, down from 10.1 million tonnes in 2017. This was a decrease of 3%.
  • The amount of dry material recycled was 5.9 million tonnes in 2018, down slightly (51,000 tonnes or 0.9%) on 2017. The tonnage of separately collected food waste sent for recycling was 414 thousand tonnes, an increase of 7.1 per cent from 386 thousand tonnes in 2017. ‘Other organic’ waste sent for recycling was 3.6 million tonnes, down a more substantial 0.3 million tonnes or 7.2% on 2017. This is the lowest tonnage of ‘other organic’ waste sent for recycling since 2013 and had a significant impact on the overall recycling rate.
  • There is an EU target for the UK to recycle at least 50 per cent of waste generated by households by 2020. The ‘waste from households’ figures outlined here for England make a significant contribution to UK estimates, which are published in the UK Statistics on Waste.
  • The rolling 12-month ‘waste from households’ recycling rate was 45.1% at the end of March 2019. This is an increase of 0.3% compared with the previous 12-month period. These figures include IBA metal. England Local Authority and Household Waste: 2018/19 financial year.
  • In 2018/19, total local authority managed waste remained steady at 25.6 million tonnes.
  • 10.8% of all local authority waste (2.8 million tonnes) was disposed of via landfill in 2018/19. This was down 0.5 million tonnes (14.2%) from 2017/18.
  • Waste sent for incineration increased by 0.4 million tonnes (3.4%) to 11.2 million tonnes in 2018/19 compared to 2017/18. It was the disposal method used for 43.8% of all local authority waste.
  • Existing definitions and methodology have been retained for all local authority and ‘household waste’ recycling figures; IBA metal is not included.
  • 10.9 million tonnes of local authority waste was sent for recycling in 2018/19, a 0.6 per cent increase on 2017/18.
  • Amongst the 345 local authorities in England, there is considerable variation in ‘household waste’ recycling rates, ranging from 17 to 65% in 2018/19.

Final thoughts

At a glance, it may seem disheartening if you live in London and are doing your best to recycle as much as you can, whilst still seeing your home city at the bottom of the list. But, don’t feel too bad; remember, London is the most densely populated area in the UK and this has a significant impact on the recycling rates in general. Lastly, if you’re having difficulty getting rid of any of your waste, you can benefit by saving time and money and choosing us to dispose of it instead.

Note: This post contains some public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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