Important To Keep Recycling Contamination Levels “In Context”

Viridor-materials-recycling-facility-web-595x396It is important to keep in context that 338,000 tonnes represents less than 3.5% of the amount of household waste collected for recycling, the ESA has said in reaction to figures showing the amount of England’s household waste rejected for recycling increased by 84% over the past four years.

“Whilst efforts should and will continue to be made to reduce contamination, we should not forget the progress that has been made to increase recycling in the UK –  from near zero in the early 1990s to almost 45% today,” the Environmental Services Association (ESA) Head of Regulation, Sam Corp said.

He said the amount of household waste recycled rose from 9.1m tonnes in 2010 to 10.0m tonnes in 2014, while over the same period the amount landfilled or incinerated fell from 13.0m tonnes to 12.3m tonnes.

Defra –  We have made tremendous progress in boosting our recycling rate, from around 11% in 2000 to nearly 45% in 2014, but it is important that the government and local authorities work with families to make it easier to recycle and make the process less confusing.”

“The reports in the national press are about the much smaller quantities of material which, although collected for recycling, cannot in practice be recycled because it is contaminated,” he continued. “However, this increase in contamination does still highlight the need for a long-term framework from the government to help drive recycling and reuse, and reduce the levels of contamination that have been shown in these figures.”

Data obtained by the BBC through the Freedom of Information Act suggest councils were unable to recycle 338,000 tons of waste in 2014-15, up from circa 184,000 tons in 2011-12, it says.

Figures show total recycled waste rose from 10.7m to 11m tons a year in the period.

The BBC suggests the main cause for the rejection of this material is due to the material put out for recycling being contaminated.

Kristian Dales, FCC Environment, said: “Today’s figures reinforce a reality that the industry is already familiar with – the quality of recyclate continues to decline – while our industry faces increasingly unrealistic recycling targets that are divorced from the reality of the market.

“What is needed is a sustainable waste strategy that balances and aligns environmental imperatives with hard, economic realities. As part of this, the options for creating energy from waste that cannot be recycled should be considered in greater detail.”

The reports by the national media prompted the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to release a statement highlighting the achievements made in recycling over the past fourteen years

A spokesperson said: “It is vital for our environment and our economy that we make the most of our resources. We have made tremendous progress in boosting our recycling rate, from around 11% in 2000 to nearly 45% in 2014, but it is important that the government and local authorities work with families to make it easier to recycle and make the process less confusing.”


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  1. If interest rates moved up or down by 3.5% this would be a big story – I think ESA’s use of this statistic to try and underplay the issue is rather flawed

    • Utter bunkum. Until the Government reinstates ring-fenced funding for recycling, we’ll see more of these trends.

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