DEFRA calls for greater recycling consistency

Every Local Authority has a recycling scheme in place – the problem is, it’s not always the same scheme.

In some communities you can put glass out for collection, in others you can’t; some waste management departments take garden waste away for free, others issue a charge. Then there’s a plethora of guidelines when it comes to managing unwanted plastic packaging. There are many other variations, too – is it any wonder that Britain has one of the lowest recycling rates in Europe?!

These few examples illustrate the huge lack of consistency in the UK when it comes to recycling goods, and it’s becoming an issue of national importance. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has launched a consultation on how we can improve the consistency of recycling services across the country, in the hope that it will raise levels of household participation and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

While findings will not be revealed until later this year, DEFRA has already identified the key role that Local Authorities can play in improving recycling rates. It’s highly likely that DEFRA will call for councils to meet more aggressive targets, which could require large investments by waste management teams to meet imminent deadlines.

Rather than waiting until official advice is announced, there is plenty that waste management teams can do now to get ahead of the game and help your community recycle more rubbish. This will also help to future-proof your operation if new, tougher targets come into force.

DEFRA calls out Local Authorities for lack of consistency

While the proportion of household waste being recycled has increased significantly since the start of the millennium, DEFRA has found that levels are now stuck at around 45%. Among the reasons it cites for this stagnation are:

  • Confusion among households about what materials can be recycled
  • Inconsistent collection schemes across Local Authorities
  • Lack of incentive to reduce waste disposal and cut the use of non-recyclable materials

Other than landfill tax, there is no regulation in place that gives Local Authorities the motivation to focus on recycling. However, this doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore it; simple changes can have a big impact on recycling rates at regional level, without taking up huge chunks of your annual department budget.

Mixed messages

One major criticism that DEFRA has made is the way some councils interpret recycling guidelines. While some Local Authorities are shining lights, enabling residents to recycle every possible material, others do not include the full spectrum of recyclable items in their collections.

For example, it varies between neighbourhoods whether glass is accepted in recycling boxes, and many collection crews do not take food waste either. There is also huge variety in which types of plastic items can be recycled – with most Local Authorities accepting plastic bottles and tubs, but far fewer recycling carrier bags, food bags, clingfilm and plant pots.

Using technology to tackle the challenge

The simplest thing you can do to reduce waste in your community is to let residents recycle more items. However, you need to consider how you can achieve larger collections without impacting the speed and efficiency of your current rounds.

To tackle this challenge, the government has launched a 25-year plan to leave our environment in a better condition for the next generation. Its blueprint includes a number of strategies for reducing unnecessary waste, which Whitespace is supporting by working with over 100 Local Authorities across the country to improve waste management processes through our innovative digital platform.

Whitespace Municipal Waste Management software enables council teams to track the performance of all refuse routes and collection crews, to identify where improvements can be made. Additionally, our solution can process data from each round, to track what proportion of waste is being recycled and maximise community participation.

Our aim is to help Local Authorities recycle more waste without it impacting targets and budgets. “By acting early, if and when new legislation and targets come into force down the line, it might be that all your team will need to do is continue the best practice you’ve already put in place.” 

Book a free Whitespace Municipal Waste Management demo to see how we can improve your recycling rates without incurring more cost.


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