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Councils account for highest variation in local recycling

Factors within councils’ own control – not just demographics – account for most of the variation of recycling rates across the UK, research by resource efficiency experts WRAP has shown.

WRAP identified these influencing factors as whether a local authority has a food waste collection or not and whether they had effective weekly residual containment capacity.

These variables explained the nationwide variation in recycling rates, from just 39% up to 65%. Local authorities collecting food waste generally have higher recycling rates, while more residual containment capacity is associated with less recycling.

Linda Crichton, head of resource management at WRAP, said the reasons for this variation are ‘complex’ and said: “They can be within the control of an authority or contextual factors, such as demographics, that are beyond the authority’s control.

“Being able to quantify the degree to which each impact on recycling is hugely important for an authority, and this report will help make that possible.”

The report also found that there is little difference in recycling rates based on the specific dry schemes in operation, whether co-mingled, two-stream or multi-stream. 

Similarly, contextual demographic variables like rurality or wealth in an area only affected recycling rates by 16% to 29%.

WRAP looked at 239 authorities covering waste collection and unitary authorities in England and unitary authorities in the UK. It included authorities that provided the same collection service for recyclable materials to 80% or more of their households.


Cllr Dan Filson   27/07/2015 at 12:38

Are recycling rates variable also as to whether garden waste is collected, as this clearly raises both the volume of waste collected but also, I presume, the % recycled. I was astonished to learn of free garden waste collection in my current borough, now charged for, as it was unheard of in the first 50-plus years of my life that garden waste that should be composted on the spot (or put on a bonfire) was being collected by the local council! I suspect the distance from bins may also be a factor in recycling rates as it is hard on residents of flats to be expected not only to bring their waste to - for them - distant bins but also to sort it into categories. Expecting residents toke several lengthy trips to their bins is pushing it. Of course packaging is a problem. As a child, fruit and vegetables, meat from the butchers, fish from the fishmonger etc etc came in flimsy paper bags or wrapped in white paper. Now supermarkets use polystyrene foam trays with cling film covers. Our problem as a nation is not just the percentage that is recycled but the overall volume of waste. Unless we control the latter, even a rising percentage of recycled waste could still have a rising volume of landfill waste. The behavioural changes that landfill charges and taxes produce are on local authorities not on their residents. Somehow the message about the true cost of landfill is not getting through to our various residents and businesses.

Dave   27/07/2015 at 16:44

I must praise my own local council, Trafford, for offering such a good food waste and garden waste collection service - weekly collections from a shared green wheelie bin, with extra green bins if you want them. With monthly collections of a paper/card wheelie bin and a glass/foil/tins bin, it's meant we rarely even fill the grey 'general waste' bin, which is collected every 2 weeks. I agree to the previous poster's point about flats: it was much more difficult to be conscientious about recycling every last item when the bins were a long walk away.

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