UK voices concern over meeting EU recycling targets

UK voices concern over meeting EU recycling targets

By Editorial Staff, Plastics Recycling Update

May 29, 2014

A major player in the U.K. waste management industry says "green fatigue" is setting in among residents and recovery rates are moving in the wrong direction.

David Palmer-Jones, CEO of waste and recycling firm SITA UK, told The Independent that U.K. residents, who now view recycling as a fixture of modern life, are in need of a more convenient recycling system if the country expects to reach EU-mandated recovery goals of 50 percent by 2020.

"Rates of overall recycling, especially in high density urban areas, are undoubtedly higher when councils and their contractors run a mixed collection service," Palmer-Jones said.

In a follow-up statement, Palmer-Jones told Resource Recycling significant progress had been made since 2000, but that recent data suggests 2020 goals won't be reached at the current pace. "In the past year the rate has leveled off and the analysis we have carried out shows that there is a strong possibility that this trend will continue and we won't make the 50 percent recycling target for 2020 that has been set by Europe.

If the U.K. fails to reach the EU-mandated goals, SITA UK would be "subject to fines of 700 Euros per day," Palmer-Jones stated. The U.K. currently recycles about 43 percent of its waste, he said.

Collected on a quarterly basis, the most recent data from household recycling in England suggests the overall recovery rate for the first nine months of 2013 held "stable" at 43.9 percent. Through the first nine months of 2012, England's household recovery rate reached 44.1 percent, which is 0.2 percentage points higher than the 2013 rate.

The 2012 U.S. recovery rate, the most recent one available from the EPA, came in at 34.5 percent, a slight drop from 2011 levels.

A major barrier for increases in collection comes down to paper generation in the U.K. – a similar issue faced by the U.S. at the moment.

Down by 4 percent in the last two years alone, the decreased amount of paper, especially newspaper, entering the U.K.waste stream is leading to lower volumes. Glass collection, with companies switching to plastic bottling, is also down.

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