Justin Bowden, GMB national officer for refuse and recycling workers, says that while “great strides” have been made to improve recycling rates over recent years, with over 70 councils in England now exceeding the 2020 50% recycling target set by the EU, more investment is needed to make the industry safer and to raise the recycling levels of underachieving councils.
GMB also says that expertise and knowledge needs to be shared in order to bring all lagging councils up to the levels of their peers.
Dan Shears, GMB national officer for health and safety – “There is no reason why this sector should be more dangerous than any other”
“We are well on the way for many councils to meet the EU target for the UK to recycle at least 50% of waste generated by households by 2020,” Bowden said. “In addition to this, for the first time more waste is incinerated with energy recovery (30.1% of all local authority collected waste) than has been sent to landfill sites (24.6%). Although recycling is preferable, it still means less waste being sent to landfill.
“Increased recycling has come at a cost. The waste sector is the most dangerous in the country to work in.
“GMB’s research tells us two things. First, we need a sharing of expertise and knowledge, which is vital to bring the recycling underachievers up to the levels of their peers. Second, to raise recycling levels even further, and make this sector safer, requires more staff to be employed, more investment in vehicles and equipment and safer methods of working to keep those providing these vital service safe.”
Dan Shears, GMB national officer for health and safety, added: “There is no reason why this sector should be more dangerous than any other. The hazards are well known. This is simply about ensuring that councils and contractors give the time and the resources to follow the good practice that is already the case on many contracts.
“GMB is doing all it can to help to reduce the level of accidents in the sector. This is why we have organised a conference for GMB workplace and health and safety representatives from the sector at our national office in February.”
Recycling Rate In England
There are seventy three councils in England where the rate of household recycling has already exceeded the EU target for the UK, which is to recycle at least 50% of waste generated by households by 2020.
The top 10 councils in England for recycling are: South Oxfordshire District Council where 67.3 60.4% of household waste is recycled, followed by Vale of White Horse District Council with 65.6% recycled, followed by Vale of White Horse District Council with 65.6%, Rochford District Council 65.2%, Surrey Heath Borough Council 63.3%, Three Rivers District Council 63.2%, Trafford MBC 61.9%, Stockport MBC 60.7%, Calderdale MBC 60.4%, Stratford-on-Avon District Council 60.3% and North Somerset Council 60.1%.
In the 320 councils in England, out of the total household waste of 23,169,167 tonnes some 10,117,005 tonnes were sent for recycling, composting or reuse. That is 43.7% of the total household waste in England.
The percentage rates for recycling household waste in the English regions are as follows: Eastern with councils recycling 49.3%, followed by South West with 47.6% recycled, North West 46.5%, East Midlands 45.2%, South East 45.0%, Yorkshire and the Humber 43.6%, West Midlands 42.2%, North East 38.0% and London 33.1%.
The 10 councils in England with the worst record for recycling household waste are as follows: Gosport Borough Council with 23.5% recycled, Barking and Dagenham with 23.4%, Portsmouth City Council 22.7%, Hammersmith and Fulham 20.7%, Wandsworth 20.7%, Bassetlaw District Council 19.2%, Westminster City Council 19.1, Newham 17.2%, Lewisham 17.1%, and Council of the Isles of Scilly with 14.1%.
This information is drawn from official data published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for the year 2014/15.