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Are England’s Falling Recycling Rates as Significant as You Think?

Posted on by Danny Nolan

With climate change one of the greatest threats facing the world, consistently achieving higher and higher levels of sustainability is an absolute necessity. One of the benefits of recycling is that fewer raw materials are needed to create products or produce energy, meaning less carbon in the atmosphere.

However, recycling rates in England have fallen in recent years – a worrying sign. But how much have the recycling rates fallen by, and is it really a problem?

Green dot recycling symbol

The Drop in Recycling Rates

Recently, the recycling rate plateaued just over 43 percent, but it peaked in the year 2014/15 at 43.7 percent. In the year 2015/16, however, recycling rates dropped to 43.0 percent. Although 2014/15 was a record high, the drop sees us return to recycling rates last witnessed in 2011/12.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has provided a number of explanations to account for the decrease, but none of these quite cover the drop fully.

Firstly, Defra believes that the drop is attributable, at least in part, to a decline in garden waste. Suggestions that charging for the collection of garden waste has deterred people from recycling their organic waste are common, but this doesn’t reflect the actual situation. In fact, organic waste recycling is up if you compare 2014/15 to 2015/16, having seen an increase of 17,000 tonnes, 0.4 percent year on year.

On the other hand, dry recycling – which includes items like card, glass, metal, plastic and WEEE items – is actually down. From household dry recycling, in 2015/16 a decrease of 0.4 percent amounting to 23,000 tonnes occurred.

Again though, these stats must be taken with a pinch of salt: how local authorities measure dry recycling rates was altered in 2015, and as such saw an enormous drop of 14.4 percent in the ‘Other’ category as more items were added to the ‘Plastic’, ‘Textiles’, ‘Glass’ and ‘WEEE’ categories.

Rejected Recycling Materials Cause Issues

Overall, councils actually collected more household material for recycling – 45,000 tonnes more – but it is in how much was rejected that problems start to appear. In 2015/16, a record 417,375 tonnes (of 10.5 million tonnes collected) were reported as rejects, an increase of 87,000 tonnes on the previous year.

Taken alone, this is a worrying sign, a potential warning that as a country we are getting worse at recycling appropriate materials. However, a closer analysis reveals that data collection may have simply improved – some experts have noted that councils previously boasted improbably low reject rates, so we may now be seeing more reliable statistics.

What Can We Take from This?

While yes, recycling rates in England have fallen in the previous financial year, the drop isn’t the calamity many have made it out to be. As we have touched upon above, the way that recycling rates are measured has changed since 2015, meaning we’re likely to see variations in the statistics, too.

As such, the falling recycling rates aren’t that significant from a conservation point of view. We can take the 2015/16 period as signs of a continuing plateau in the recycling rate seen since 2011, but that isn’t to say we can remain complacent. Continued action must be taken to deal with the threat of climate change, and increasing our recycling output is just one way we can act. And Danjo’s Skip Hire is just one of many that’s on the case.

Danjo’s Skip Hire is proud to offer comprehensive recycling services in Croydon and Sutton. We recycle 90 percent of all waste we collect, doing our bit to keep the planet green. If you’d like to discuss your commercial or domestic recycling requirements, simply contact our friendly team by calling 020 3124 1697 (Croydon office) or 020 3283 8399 (Sutton office) today. Or, contact us online.

About Danny Nolan

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