Why are recycling rates falling in England when Wales and other European countries are doing so well?

Q

Why are recycling rates falling in England when Wales and other European countries are doing so well?

A

The latest official waste statistics relate to 2018. In that year, England recycled 44.7% of household waste, down 0.5% from 2017. In contrast, Wales recycled 54.1%, though this was still down on the previous year when they achieved 55.2%. There has been little change to the recycling rate in all of the countries of the UK since 2015 at least.

These figures call into question the UK’s ability to achieve the statutory target of 50% recycling by 2020, set by the EU Waste Framework Directive.

The picture across the continent is more varied: European champion Germany recycled 68% of their municipal waste in 2017, while down at the bottom of the league table Serbia only managed 0.3%. The UK ranked twelfth behind Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Sweden. In most of these countries, virtually no waste is sent to landfill but there is heavy reliance on energy-from-waste alongside recycling (see the feature article Exporting our waste: what is happening to our RDF?).

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