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Council focus in scientists’ report

By 14/12/2017News

The role local authorities play in improving recycling performance has been explored in the Report of the Government Chief Scientific Adviser published today on waste and resources.

Accompanying the report, a large volume of evidence has been published including work on local authorities and household waste.

On local authorities, the chief executive of the local authority advisory committee (LARAC), Lee Marshall has contributed. He writes that higher recycling targets will not be achieved if councils rely solely on further increases in government spending.

The Report of the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, was published today

The evidence document also included insights from LARAC’s Andrew Bird, and CIWM’s Steve Lee and Pat Jennings as well as a number of other writers.


In his section of the report which in part looks at the Circular Economy Package, Mr Marshall said alternative funding methods will be needed if the UK is to adopt a 65% or 70% recycling target.

Mr Marshall explained: “While progress in England towards its current 50% recycling target has slowed, higher recycling rates in Wales and Scotland have been accompanied with directed funding in council recycling services in those countries. Local councils’ spending on recycling has doubled since 2000, but government grant funding has fallen by 40% since 2010.”

And, Mr Marshall said to reach a 70% recycling rate, “virtually every household will have to recycle virtually all their packaging at the kerbside while also ensuring that larger items find their way to recycling routes through bulky collections and household waste recycling centres.” He said they will also need to capture all their food waste separately.

Mr Marshall said the circular economy proposals on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is an area of particular interest to local authorities.

He said this concept has the potential to bring in the additional funding needed to provide the “comprehensive” recycling services required to achieve higher recycling rates.


The EPR concept states that the producer of a product remains responsible for it after its initial use had finished – or, at least, responsible for funding the systems and infrastructures that ensure the materials embedded in that product are recovered and stay in economic use.

LARAC’s chief executive said that the devolved nations – Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – have a statutory duty to reach targets of 70% by 2025. He said England’s councils are aiming for a 50% recycling level by 2020 but with no statutory duty to meet it.

“Separate food waste collections are thus commonplace in the devolved nations, assisted by funding from the devolved governments in pursuit of their policies, while the business case for implementation across England remains much more difficult to make.

“This is just one reason why we have seen recycling rates in Wales touch 58%, while in England they are around 45%.”

However, Mr Marshall was keen to praise the “huge progress” made by the UK. “Given that in 2000 to 2001 recycling rates in England were just over 11%, we can also see that huge progress has been made.

“When compared to other EU member states, the UK as a whole has come further in a shorter space of time.”

Mr Marshall was also discussed new initiatives and techniques taken up by local authorities. He was complementary of partnership working between authorities which he said had grown in recent years. He said this showed “a willingness to put aside political differences to work for the greater good of local residents”.


Meanwhile, LARAC’s chair, Andrew Bird, discussed work undertaken by Newcastle-under-Lyme, as part of the Staffordshire Waste Partnership, as well as revisions to the council’s waste service which were introduced to retain a source separated recycling system, alongside a weekly food waste collection.

Commenting of the improvements, Mr Bird said: “Initial indications are positive, with around a 30% increase in yields of dry recycling materials in the first month of the new operation. It is too early to predict whether this will be maintained but the outlook is positive and a recycling rate well in excess of 56% is expected for this year.”


Steve Lee, former chief executive of CIWM, remarks that “If recycling and its contribution to resource productivity are seen as strategic future priorities for the UK, a more holistic understanding of the relationship between policy and investment and recycling performance will be needed, complemented by a more accurate quantification of the wider benefits of recycling.”

CIWM policy officer, Pat Jennings, looks at waste plastics and recycling rates. She notes: that a number of factors, “coupled with the growing divergence in policy and performance acrossthe UK, suggest that where recycling rates are plateauing, it would be unwise to assume thatthey will resume an upward momentum without further interventions.”

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