Brussels puts pressure on UK to increase recycling rates
Our increased appetite for digesting news online and food producers’ attempts to reduce the amount of packaging they use could cost the UK hundreds of millions of pounds in EU fines.
Brussels has set the UK a target of recycling 50% of household waste by 2020, but figures released last month show household waste recycling rates in England have flat-lined at 44.2%, just 0.1% higher than the 44.1% achieved in 2012.
This means the UK could face fines of up to £500,000 a day, according to estimates, but recycling industry leaders say Britons have less waste to recycle.
Pete Dickson, commercial director of Biffa, points to consumers buying less packaged goods, the reduction of packaging used, a move from glass to plastic containers and a decrease in paper consumption because of technology as possible reasons for England failing to increase its recycling rate.
Brussels measures recycling rates are by weight. This means if a household cuts down on paper and packaging waste and switches from heavy glass to lighter plastic, its recycling rate will fall, even though the residents are not putting any more rubbish in black bags.
David Palmer-Jones, head of recycling firm SITA UK, added that measures such as smaller wheelie bins to limit black bag waste or council tax discounts for high recycling rates might be needed if the UK wants to hit the targets.
A reduction in paper and packaging alone does not explain England’s low recycling rates, said Mr Palmer-Jones, who pointed the finger of blame at local authority budget cuts in England that had led to less effort going into recycling initiatives.
“Recycling rates in Wales are already above 50%,” he added. “Food collection is mandatory in Wales, unlike in England, and that helps drives up recycling rates.”
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