Northumberland is recycling less household waste now than it did five years ago, new figures reveal.
Between March 2016 and 2017, 38 per cent of all rubbish from households was recycled, reused or composted, three per cent less than between the same period from 2011 to 2012.
This is despite a renewed focus on the environment and the use of plastic over the past five years, as well as the development of new technologies.
It is higher than the worst performing council in England and Wales, the east London borough of Newham, which recycled just 14 per cent of its household waste.
But Northumberland’s 2017 figure is significantly below the Government’s current household waste recycling target of 50 per cent by 2020, set by the EU.
The latest figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs show that in the 12 months to the end of March, Northumberland cleared away a whopping 162,434 tonnes of rubbish, with 93 per cent of that household waste.
Of the 56,903 tonnes from homes that were recycled or reused, 59 per cent was dry recycling and the rest was compost – food and garden waste.
The 62 per cent that wasn’t recycled either went into landfill or was incinerated, with the ash going towards providing energy. Each household threw out, on average, 626kg of rubbish that was not reprocessed.
A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “The council has invested in its waste services and offers a convenient kerbside recycling service to more than 99.3 per cent of all households in the county, as well as having a comprehensive network of local recycling sites.
“While the county is achieving a good recycling rate, the recycling performance has fallen slightly in recent years due to a combination of factors.
“This includes changes in consumer habits, the light-weighting of packaging and the temporary suspension of recycling services for some items (carpets and hard plastics) taken to household waste recovery centres due to a lack of viable end markets. “
“We are continuing to encourage all of our residents to do their bit for the environment and to avoid generating waste and, where possible, to reuse, recycle or compost any waste that is generated, especially over the festive period. While the recycling rate has fallen between 2011/12 to 2016/17, we have reduced the amount of waste being disposed of at landfill sites over the same period from 35.6% to just 13.5% with non-recyclable waste being burned to generate electricity for the National Grid.”
Defra doesn’t have a complete data set to show how much waste local authorities dispose of in the ground, however nationally this has almost halved in the last five years, while the amount being used to provide energy from waste has doubled.
The average proportion of household waste recycled in England was 44%, lower than in Wales where 55% was reused.
That puts Wales only second after Germany in the world for recycling household waste, according to environmental analysts Eunomia.
England sits behind South Korea, Slovenia and Italy in 18th place.
Recycling has been on the news agenda lately with David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II shining a light on how plastic is affecting our marine wildlife. It is thought more than eight million tonnes is dumped into the world’s oceans annually.
Last week, China revealed it may stop importing plastic from foreign countries including the UK, which may impact local authorities.
According to the environmental organisation Greenpeace, in the last year, Britain shipped more than 2.7million tonnes to China and Hong Kong.
Experts believe the restrictions could force councils to stop recycling certain types of plastic, as fees
at sorting plants are likely to increase.