Last reviewed 21 September 2020

This year’s Recycling Week campaign is to thank the nation for continuing to recycle, despite the pandemic. But latest data shows UK is still failing to meet its recycling targets.

Recycling Week 2020, launched today by waste and resources group, WRAP, celebrates the determination of householders, businesses and key workers to keep recycling going, despite the risks of Covid-19. The pressure of lockdowns and uncertainty over infection rates has made the job of collection and recovery of recyclable materials difficult but the work has continued even through the restrictions.

Craig Stephens, Recycle Now campaign manager, described recycling and waste key workers as “heroes” in challenging times.  “Some local authorities are already claiming increases in tonnages during lockdown — with our increased reliance on online deliveries generating an increase in cardboard, for example. Our recycling and waste key workers have heroically carried on collecting while the world slowed down around them.”

Meanwhile, progress on recycling has stalled, with the UK as a whole not set to meet an EU target to recycle or reuse 50% or more of household waste by next year. The latest government data shows recycling rates for Waste from Households (WfH) was 45.0% in 2018, decreasing from 45.5% in 2017. Only Wales surpassed the EU target by recycling 54.1% of household waste in 2018.

The government also estimates that the UK generated 41.1 million tonnes of commercial and industrial (C&I) waste in 2016, of which 33.1 million tonnes (around four fifths) was generated in England. This rose to 36.1 million tonnes in 2017 and 37.2 million tonnes in 2018.

Analysis carried out by ENDS has found that the amount of waste incinerated in England has more than doubled in the last five years, while recycling rates dropped off slightly in in 2017, the latest year for which data is available. 

WRAP has published a new Recycle Week ‘partner pack’ as part of its Recycling Week campaign. The pack includes ideas for improving recycling rates and is suitable for businesses, local authorities and other organisations. The pack is free to download and is available here.