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15th December 2016

England household annual recycling rates fall for the first time since modern records began

2015-2016 England recycling rate falls to 43.9% vs. 44.7% in 2014/15

David Palmer-Jones, CEO for SUEZ recycling and recovery in the UK, said:

“Annual Household recycling rates in England have fallen for the first time since modern records began 16 years ago, according to SUEZ analysis of official data. In response to this, SUEZ believes that the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) could hold the key to kick-starting recycling gains once more.

The UK is at a tipping point and without urgent change to improve England’s household recycling rates, the UK will not meet its EU agreed target of 50% recycling rates by 2020. Wales has shown England that it is possible to smash this target, thanks to ring-fenced funding and a clear national policy of enforceable local targets – with Wales achieving a rate of 60.2% over the same financial year to end-March 2016, up 4% over the year.

In response, SUEZ is calling for the introduction of a wider producer responsibility regime in England, which would see packaging and product manufacturers taxed on a sliding scale according to the amount of recyclable and non-recyclable materials used in their goods. This levy would help pay for more comprehensive material capture schemes for a much wider range of materials – addressing the huge funding challenge that local government faces. By imposing a levy on a sliding scale, producers will be incentivised to utilise more recycled material and will therefore have an interest in the success of systems designed to capture and return the material they need back to them. This is the “pull” mechanism that the recycling industry has been calling out for, to complement the “push” of material out of landfill into recycling.

Producer responsibility would affect real change by shifting some of the responsibility of household recycling away from beleaguered householders and back to businesses. It would not only allow waste management costs for obligated products to transfer from the public purse to the point of sale, but properly designed, producer responsibility should be a win-win proposition for producers and waste operators. Producers retain the value in their products, while the waste management sector can operate to a clear set of quality standards, with opportunities for growth in value creation.”

Capture systems funded by an EPR levy could include, for example, separate doorstep collection, bring-banks, deposit-return schemes, and reverse vending systems.

Household recycling rates fell sharply, on average, across England’s local authorities and were down 0.8% in the 12 month period to end March 2016 – dropping from 43.9 per cent from 44.7 per cent.

In the context of the devolved administrations of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, England makes, proportionately, a far more significant contribution to the UK’s recycling rate – due to the much larger population and subsequent waste volumes. SUEZ’s analysis reveals that the sharpest regional declines come from the most populous areas of the country, including London and both the East and West Midlands. The South West was the only English region which saw no fall, although its annual recycling rate flat-lined at 47.6%.

The introduction of more charging by local authorities for green (garden waste) collections may be deterring many households from putting their cuttings out for collection and, because recycling rates are measured by the weight of materials collected, the absence of this heavier recycling stream may negatively affect overall recycling performance.”

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