Environmental Services Association worried 50% recycling target won’t be met


The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has said UK recycling remains in the doldrums and is unlikely to meet its 50% recycling target by 2020. 

Defra has published its latest statistics that show the UK household recycling rate was 45.2% in 2016, rising from 44.6% in 2015. 


ESA executive director, Jacob Hayler, said: “While the UK’s 2016 recycling rate for waste from households shows an improvement over 2015, partly due to the inclusion of IBA metals, it provides further proof that on current policies, the UK will not reach 50% recycling by 2020, let alone the higher rates provisionally agreed at EU level. 

“As ESA has already pointed out, Defra’s impending resources and waste strategy will need to address the issue of sustainable markets for recyclable materials, as well as the UK’s residual waste capacity gap.” 

However, he welcomed the revised estimates of the quantity commercial and industrial waste in England.  

These statistics from Defra estimate that the UK commercial and industrial waste was at 41.9 million tonnes in 2014, with 32.8 million being generated in England.  

According to Defra, commercial and industrial waste generation in 2016 decreased to around 32.2 million tonnes.  

Last year, ESA members raised concerns about the data released by Defra on this waste stream, which according to them, underestimated the amount of waste.  

ESA has said that it is pleased to be working with the industry to share knowledge and cross-check other data.  

Defra has also been able to produce a reliable approach to estimate the total C&I waste, which tallies better with industry analysis to other data sets, providing better clarified figures that establish a better platform for understanding future trends. 

Jacob Hayler added: “This collaborative work has been particularly important at a time when the UK is looking to develop its own post-Brexit resources and waste strategy and trying to encourage investment in much-needed UK waste infrastructure and services.”

Other findings included that UK biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) sent to landfill in 2016 was similar to 2015, remaining at approximately 7.7 million tonnes. The UK is still on track to meet the EU target to restrict BMW landfilled to 35% of the 1995 baseline by 2020.   

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