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How is the British recycling sector shaping up?

As we move towards 2020 and the deadline for many long-term goals on recycling and sustainable business, it’s easy to forget that only one generation ago, most households threw all of their waste away in a single general waste bin. It is a good time to ask: what are the main issues still facing the waste management sector in England?

Looking back on the last 40 years or so, one can argue that the UK recycling industry has made a lot of progress. Official Defra figures published at the end of 2018 reveal that the household recycling rate in England is now 45.2% of all domestic waste. This means figures are up from 44.9% in the previous year.

In  fact, 16% of waste collected by local authorities was sent to landfill in 2017. But last year, this dropped to 12.5%, which is a fall of nearly a million tonnes.

Music meets recycling

The minimum charge on single-use plastic carrier bags has now been in force in England for over three years. Recently, attention has spread to other single-use plastics such as straws and plastic bottles.

As of February 2019, the organisers of the Glastonbury Festival announced that they will no longer sell drinks in plastic bottles on-site during the festival. Also, music fans attending the popular event will be encouraged to avoid single-use plastic bottles – although they are not officially banned.

In 2017, some 40 tonnes of plastic bottles were recycled and nearly 45 tonnes of aluminium cans were processed by Glastonbury’s on-site recycling facility. This year’s music festival is expected to set a new high score for aluminium and plastics recycling.

‘It is paramount for our planet that we all reduce our plastic consumption and I’m thrilled that, together, we’ll be able to prevent over a million single-use plastic bottles from being used at this year’s festival,’ comments Glastonbury Festival co-organiser Emily Eavis.

Floating in the river

Meanwhile, more than 60% of litter collected from UK waterways is single-use packaging like bottles, cans and food packaging. So reports the Marine Conservation Society following litter picks along the banks of the River Thames. Metal drinks cans are found most commonly as well as wet wipes, glass and a variety of non-descript plastics.

Coming soon: DRS

Another major development to watch this year is the work on a deposit return scheme for single-use drinks containers. In February, Defra opened a consultation on this that had been promised a year earlier, along with consulting on alternatives such as making packaging producers more responsible for recovering waste.

The consultation runs until May, which means formal legislation to introduce a DRS in the UK could be drawn up by the end of the year ready for final consultation in early 2020.

Better collection

Finally, people across the country are becoming more and more committed to recycling thanks to suppliers like Wheelie Bin Solutions providing recycling wheelie bins in many different colours and sizes.

‘Reducing waste and recycling more is helping all of us to put our general waste wheelie bins out less often, and by using less disposable packaging and single-use plastics, many households are not filling their recycling bins as fast either,’ comments Craig Pryce, director of Wheelie Bin Solutions. ‘We’ve also seen a surge in interest for compost bins as more households want to use their compostable food waste to fertilise their own garden,’ he adds.

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