UK official waste data

ended 11. May 2022

This morning, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), published the latest annual data on UK waste (household and commercial). You can see it here. Key points are:

  • The UK recycling rate for Waste from Households (WfH; including Incinerator Bottom Ash metal (IBAm)) was 44.4% in 2020, decreasing from 46.0% in 2019.
  • The recycling rate for WfH decreased in all UK countries in 2020 except Wales. The recycling rate for England was 44.0%, compared with 49.1% in Northern Ireland, 41.0% in Scotland, and 56.5% in Wales.
  • UK biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) sent to landfill has fallen from approximately 6.6 million tonnes in 2019 to around 6.1 million tonnes in 2020.
  • Provisional figures for 2021 show that 63.2% of UK packaging waste was recycled, similar to 2020.

If you've got any thoughts on this, send them across ASAP and we'll do our best to get them into the media.

4 responses from the Newspage community

"I'm extremely disappointed to see that the UK recycling rate dropped in 2020, but let's hope that it was more due to logistical issues created by lockdowns rather than people losing interest. If we were made to bury our rubbish in our own back garden, we would think twice about what we buy and recycle. It would very quickly become overwhelming. The pandemic forced us all to change our lifestyle. We spent more time at home, whether that was working or homeschooling and, as a result, online shopping and food deliveries increased. This, of course, led to a rise in household waste. To help tackle this surge, we have developed a Reusable Bin Liner to replace the need for single-use, plastic bin bags. Each Reusable Liner is handmade in Dorset using Eco PUL and can be machine washed or wiped clean."
"It's really deflating to see that recycling rates have fallen, at a time when we should all be highly aware of environmental concerns. However I would be interested to know if the drop in rates is due to consumers actually recycling less, or whether it’s due to lockdown interference or any changes in the recycling waste streams, meaning less can be accepted for processing. Recycling isn’t always the answer anyway. The recycling process is better than landfill but it uses resources and produces its own carbon emissions. The bigger priority is to stop waste at source, and produce less things that will eventually need recycling in the first place. The second priority is reusing/repurposing things that have already been produced. Industrial recycling processes should only be considered once reduction and reuse have already been exhausted. At Buildabundle we are an online second-hand kids clothes shop, and our customers bring in their used plastic post bags and post boxes for us to reuse. We reuse thousands of packaging items a year in this way, which means we aren’t creating the demand for thousands more to be produced. We would love to see more companies doing this."
"It's becoming much harder to recycle where I live, in semi-rural Brinsley, Nottinghamshire. Last year, the glass recycling bank was taken away because it was over used and currently the parish council are discussing taking the tetrapak bank away for the same reason. Overuse. You couldn't make it up. The removal of the glass bank wasn't an issue as we have kerbside collections but removal of the tetrapak bank is, as Nottinghamshire is one of the few areas that still don't allow them in the recycling bins. It honestly feels like the council have hit their recycling targets and don't want to overachieve."
Data is all well and good, but only if it is truthful and not created to greenwash society into believing that waste is being taken care of in a way that does not do more harm than good. Recycling or industrial reprocessing as it should be known is a system to make huge profits for the few, whilst playing on the feel good factor we all search for in doing the 'right' thing. When we talk about the plastic industry, industrial reprocessing keeps us using plastic - after all if the oil industry can keep us dependant on plastic, they can keep making money. How wonderful it would be if these reports where written so everyone could understand what the reports actually mean, and how it relates to them, the climate crisis and the true impact around the world of our actions.