Defra reports a drop in UK recycling rates for first time

Recent figures published by Defra show a fall in recycling rate for the first time since recording began in 2010. The combined recycling and composting rate for waste from households stood at 44.3% in 2015. In 2014 the rate was 44.9%.

Although there was a drop in the rate from the previous year, the figure for 2015 is still the second highest that has been reported by Defra. Below is a graphical breakdown of each year’s rate:

Defra reports a drop in UK recycling rates for first time

Meeting EU Targets

As part of the EU, the UK is required to meet recycling targets set by the Waste Framework Directive. The goal of said directive is to have all member countries reach a recycling rate of 50% by 2020.

Based on recent figures, the UK overall was coming to a standstill in recycling rate advancements. Since 2010 the rate peaked at just below 50%, only halfway to the target set by the EU. The decrease seen in 2015 will undoubtedly spark government calls for increased efforts.

The bigger picture shows that within the UK, England, and Northern Ireland showed decreasing rates whilst Scotland and Wales showed increasing rates. Of all countries, Wales posted the highest recycling rate at 55.8% and Scotland and Northern Ireland were joint lowest with 42%.

Other figures from the statistical release showed that the amount of biodegradable waste being sent to landfills has continued to reduce. The total for 2015 was 7.7 million with local authorities sending roughly 20% of waste to landfills.

The report also touches on the UK’s generation of commercial and industrial waste, stating that the 2015 figure was 27.7 million tonnes. The figure fell from the 2012 total which was 32.8 million tonnes.

Overall figures for waste generation in the UK rose to 202.8 million tonnes for 2014, representing an increase of 4.6% since 2012. The expected cause of this increase is more construction, demolition and excavation activities being carried out than in the past, which contributed to over half of the total (59.4%).

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