England failed to hit the target of recycling 50% of household waste in 2020, according to a recent report from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Recycling rates in the country dropped from 46% in 2019 to 44% in 2020. England is responsible for 84% of the UK’s 27 million tonnes of household waste.
Defra blamed the coronavirus pandemic for the shortfall, which led to “disruptions and some cancellations of kerbside collections of recycling and garden waste” as well as “widespread closures of Household Waste Recycling Centres.”
The country’s low recycling rate led to an extra 167,000 tonnes of rubbish going to landfill or incineration.
Calls to ban recycling exports by Environment Agency chief executive Sir James Bevan could exacerbate the situation, as it would likely lead to even more recyclable materials heading to landfill.
Scotland and Northern Ireland also missed the target at 49.1% and 41.0% respectively, while Wales was the only country in the UK to surpass the goal at 56.5%.
Wales’ recycling boost managed to prevent more than 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.
Julie James, Welsh Minister for Climate Change, said local authorities and the people of Wales never took their eye off the recycling target, despite the hardships 2020 presented.
She said, “Our recycling stats are world-class thanks to a Team Wales effort. Despite the pandemic and all the challenges it brought with it, local authorities managed to prioritise recycling, the collectors worked heroically all the way through, and the fantastic people of Wales continued to recycle.
“We must now continue to raise our ambitions to reach zero waste by 2050 and net-zero carbon emissions so we can tackle the climate and nature emergencies in earnest, and pass on a resilient, green and prosperous planet to our future generations.”
A big part of Wales’ success is down to a massive effort to roll out food waste recycling.
James added, “Most people in Wales now deem it unthinkable to scrape their food waste directly into the rubbish bin instead of their food caddy. This amazing change in behaviour by the Welsh public stops emissions from being released into the atmosphere that accelerate climate change.”
Food waste left to rot in landfill releases methane gas, which is 25 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.
Last year, local authorities in England announced an enormous £295m in funding for mandatory food waste collections.
The initiative is set to roll out in 2023, while Cambridge City Council has already begun trialling collections, handing out kitchen caddies, outside collection caddies and biodegradable liners to residents.
Council bosses are hopeful that the trial will reduce the amount of food waste that goes into normal rubbish bins. The trial will also test the city’s processing plants’ capacity to digest the food waste and liners at scale.
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