Recycling targets – lessons from Scotland and Wales

26th August 2015 Posted by

The news that Wales has hit an overall recycling and composting rate of 56 per cent in 2014/15 with an increase of two per cent from the previous year comes as a welcome corrective to the gloomy news from England, which only managed an increase of 0.6 per cent to 44.8 per cent over the same period.

While it may well be easier to coordinate waste collection and recycling across 22 local authorities as opposed to over 400 in England, the fact remains that the evolving policy landscape underlying both Wales’ and Scotland’s waste management scene is more supportive of sustained higher levels of recycling.  What are some of these success factors?

Firstly, both devolved administrations recognise the benefits of a more harmonised waste collection system. This process has started in Scotland with the drafting of a voluntary agreement between local authorities; we understand England is contemplating a similar initiative. Wales has a more prescriptive collection regime which has a similar effect.

Secondly, both devolved administrations have not only retained the household waste recycling targets that England scrapped in 2011, but have extended them to 2025, giving local authorities a sensible time horizon over which to plan its services and asset requirements.

Finally, the mandatory separate collection of food waste helps reduce contamination levels in dry recyclates, whether separately collected or in co-mingled form.  In turn this reduces reject rates and increases the overall efficiency of recycling.

These are among the measures explored in the report At This Rate…, prepared for SUEZ by SLR Consulting and due for release at RWM 2015 in Birmingham on 15 September. Drawing on an international comparison of best practice and underpinned by recycling targets, SLR have assessed the incremental uplift that separate food waste collection, stronger communications programmes, pay-as-you-throw, and allowing certain uses of incinerator bottom ash to count as recycling, could contribute to England’s overall recycling performance. Any one of these measures can add appreciably to England’s performance. Taken together we could raise our recycling rate by at least 12 percentage points.

Join us at RWM 2015 to discuss the report’s findings with our panel of speakers.

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