The Daily Telegraph survey said that more than 200,000 tonnes of household items put out for recycling were being landfilled or incinerated each year. These findings came from a survey of 400 local authorities, 209 of which replied. The survey found that more than 75% of respondents sent at least some recyclates to landfill or incinerators.
But comprehensive evidence gathered by the Waste & Resources Action Programme and the Local Government Association just last week, completely contradicts this view. WRAP’s research found that councils are continuing to move most of the material put out for recycling (See MRW story).
WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin said: 'Let's be clear, the vast majority of material put out for recycling is recycled. Almost ten million tonnes of waste was recycled in the UK last year, so if the 200,000 tonnes going to landfill figure is correct, that represents a tiny fraction (2%) and means that 98% of the material put out for recycling is actually recycled.
“There will always be some material put out for recycling which just cannot be recycled, perhaps because people have not understood the local arrangements. But the amount is marginal compared to the amount of material which is correctly sorted.”
Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee chief executive Lee Marshall echoed Goodwin’s stance: “It is in the councils’ interest to recycle as much waste as possible from the collections they run. But because people are so keen to recycle they sometimes put out items for collection that the local authority cannot recycle. It is this material that is unfortunately going to landfill or incineration and not materials that can be recycled. Local authorities work hard at their communications to ensure that this material is kept to a minimum.
“Stories like [The Telegraph’s] are unhelpful as they do not present the true picture and undermine the good work that local authorities do on recycling.”
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesman said: “Figures published in November show that 90% of local authorities are meeting or exceeding their recycling targets. The recyclates market goes up as well as down and newly published evidence suggests the market has stabilised. It’s vital that we all continue to recycle what we can as the last thing we want is for recyclable materials to end up in landfill.”