The UK household recycling rate increased by just half a percentage point in 2017, according to data published last week by government department DEFRA.
The data also confirmed that energy-from-waste levels are continuing to soar with the 2016 figure of 7.3 million tonnes almost four times the 1.9Mt treated in 2014.
More up-to-date figures for England, published at the end of last year, showed that incineration had increased by 6.5% to 10.83Mt in the 2017/18 financial year compared to the same period a year before.
In it release, DEFRA also notes there were 29 EfW facilities in 2014 but by 2016 this had risen to 37, with capacity doubling from 4.9Mt to 9.8Mt per year.
Last week’s figures show that in 2017 the household recycling rate was 45.7%, increasing from 45.2% in 2016 – still some way from its EU target of 50% by 2020. Provisional figures for 2017 indicate that 70.2% of UK packaging waste was either recycled or recovered compared to 71.4% in 2016.
This exceeds the EU target to recycle or recover at least 60% of packaging waste, but trade body the Environmental Services Association (ESA) said there should be no illusions that the UK is on track to meet its overall recycling targets.
Jacob Hayler, ESA’s executive director, said: "Whilst household recycling rates are heading in the right direction, today’s statistical release is a stark reminder that we are unlikely to meet our 2020 recycling targets. The suite of measures being developed under the Resources and Waste Strategy will need to provide a step change to enable us to head towards a 65% target, but the challenges should not be underestimated as today’s figures show."
The recycling rate for England was 45.2%, compared with 46.3% in Northern Ireland, 43.5% in Scotland and 57.6% in Wales. Northern Ireland saw a 3 percentage point increase in the recycling rate in 2017 compared to 2016, which the government says was a result of the introduction of mandatory food waste collection from April 2017.
The figures also reveal that levels of commercial and industrial (C&I) waste are rising significantly. The 33.1Mt of C&I waste in 2016 in England (41.1Mt in the UK as a whole) rose to 37.9Mt in 2017. UK-wide C&I figures for 2017 are not yet available.