Industry calls for radical changes to fund recycling push

16th December 2016

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Public sector ,
  • Local government ,
  • Waste ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management


John Peters

Industry and local authorities have called for levies on manufacturers to fund improvements to recycling systems after data revealed a drop in recycling rates.

The household recycling rate fell from 44.8% in 2014 to 43.9% in 2015, according to statistics released by the environment department (Defra) yesterday. Recycling rates had previously been increasing each year and this is the first time the household recycling rate has been lower than 44% since 2011, Defra said in its report.

Household recycling rates, January 2010-March 2016

Source: Defra

Dry recycling, which includes paper, plastics and glass and comprises 59% of materials recycled by households, fell by 1.1% between 2014 and 2015. Recycling of garden waste fell by 4.8%, though Defra pointed out that recycling of this material had been unusually high the preceding year.

The UK has to meet an EU target to recycle 50% of household waste by 2020. Concerns have been growing that it will not meet this target.

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes would see some of the responsibility for recycling shift from local authorities to packaging and product manufacturers, who would be taxed on a sliding scale according to the amount of recyclable and non-recyclable materials used in their goods.

The levy would help pay for more comprehensive schemes for a much wider range of materials than are currently recycled, according to David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of waste firm SUEZ. The fall in recycling is the first since Defra started collecting data 16 years ago, according to the firm’s analysis.

Producers would be incentivised to use more recycled material and would therefore have an interest in the success of systems designed to capture and return the material they need back to them, he said.

‘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,’ Palmer-Jones said.

Recycling systems funded by an EPR levy could include separate doorstep collection, bring-banks and deposit-return schemes, he suggested.

The idea has also been backed by the Environmental Services Association. In October, the trade body claimed that that applying EPR to some of the more common components of UK litter could save local authorities around £300m a year.

The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) said that Defra’s latest data demonstrated the effects the ongoing council budget cuts on local authority waste services.

The funding of council waste services needs a fundamental review and concepts such as EPR should be explored and implemented, said Andrew Bird, chair of LARAC. The committee urged DEFRA to work constructively with local government to identify policy changes that would help the UK achieve the 50% recycling rate was in danger of missing.

Bird said: ‘We are obviously disappointed that the rates have gone down for the first time. But when waste services are competing for a reduced budget with adult care, education and social services it is clear something is going to give.’


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

SBTi clarifies that ‘no change has been made’ to its stance on offsetting

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Vanessa Champion reveals how biophilic design can help you meet your environmental, social and governance goals

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

A project promoter’s perspective on the environmental challenges facing new subsea power cables

3rd April 2024

Read more

Senior consultant, EcoAct

3rd April 2024

Read more

Around 20% of the plastic recycled is polypropylene, but the diversity of products it protects has prevented safe reprocessing back into food packaging. Until now. David Burrows reports

3rd April 2024

Read more

IEMA presents a digital campaign to share knowledge and inspire action in sustainability

2nd April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close