Why is so much of England TERRIBLE at recycling?

Sustainability has been one of the hottest topics for the last decade and continues to be at the forefront of political attention. Businesses and members of the general public alike are encouraged to ‘up their game’ when it comes to recycling – but with all of this attention and pressure around the subject, why is the UK still terrible at recycling?

The EU’s minimum target for recycling is 50%, but according to figures released by Defra in 2020, the amount of household waste recycled in England actually fell by 1.5% to 44%. Poor recycling performance appears to be becoming something of a national trait for the UK as some major areas including Scotland, Northern Ireland’s recycling levels all fell during this period and were all below the minimum EU target.

While covid has been largely to blame for the lack of recycling, Simon Ellin, CEO of the Recycling Association (the trade association for UK recycling companies) said that one of the major issues is inconsistencies between councils; making logistics and communications with the public difficult.

With over 350 local authorities within the UK, each and every one has a different collection system, some more so than others. This leads to items that are being recycled being labelled and separated incorrectly, leaving items contaminated, which leaves recyclers little option other than to sell the waste on. Ellis explained that local government have also experienced a complete lack of support from central government in regards to budget and finance, making their job difficult and almost impossible to get right.

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