This Policy Position Statement reviews the importance of
recycling in modern integrated waste management and
treatment. CIWEM supports action to advance, promote and
enhance recycling and its performance, and identifies key actions
for policy-makers. The political, regulatory, technical and
practical aspects are discussed in their broadest sense in the
overall context of recycling developments within the UK.
CIWEM calls for:
- All government institutions to consider recycling in all
aspects of their work.
- Waste management organisations to promote good practice in
- Efforts to improve the effectiveness of poorly-performing
kerbside collection schemes.
- Action to improve the quality and diversity of materials
collected for recycling while protecting against
- Ongoing emphasis, through a national campaign, on public
education and awareness to encourage householders to minimise, sort
and store their waste for optimal kerbside recycling.
- A risk-based approach to be applied in identifying and tackling
opportunities in recycling.
- The formal encouragement of "green procurement" policies within
central and local government to assist in establishing a stable,
secure market for recycled and recovered products.
- Consideration of methods to incentivise recycling and materials
- Action to improve the knowledge base for making policy
decisions about recycling.
- Full consideration of the energy balance of recycling, with
greater emphasis placed upon the importance of waste minimisation
and reuse in accordance with the waste hierarchy.
Approximately 100 million tonnes of waste from households,
commerce and industry are produced annually in the UK. Municipal
waste represents approximately 30% of this total and is
experiencing an annual growth rate of 3%, which will result in
almost double the current amount of waste arisings by the year
2020. Most of this waste is currently landfilled, which is not only
a wasted opportunity to recover value but results in the production
of greenhouse gases and is an unsustainable practice. To address
this issue the UK has agreed with its European partners tough
targets to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill
through the Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC). This Directive,
incorporated into UK Law under the Landfill Regulations 2002
and enforced in England under the Waste Emissions Trading Act 2003,
sets strict targets for landfilling of Biodegradable Municipal
- By 2010 to reduce BMW to 75% (by weight) of that produced in
- By 2013 to reduce BMW to 50% (by weight) of that produced in
- By 2020 to reduce BMW to 35% (by weight) of that produced in
In meeting these targets, focus must be on recovering value from
waste and reducing environmental impacts, which means not only
putting waste materials to better use, but also tackling growth in
waste. In its Waste Strategy 2000 the Government set the following
national targets to increase the recycling of household waste.
- To recycle or compost at least 25% of household waste by
- To recycle or compost at least 30% of household waste by
- To recycle or compost at least 33% of household waste by
Local authorities are responsible for delivering these targets
as they have the obligation to collect and dispose of municipal
The challenge facing the waste industry is to develop future
waste management facilities that meet the UK and European targets
while minimising exposure to rising costs. Solutions also need to
be flexible to change in response to future developments in
legislation and variation in consumer behaviour.
Recycling is important
Since the publication of the Waste Strategy 2000 and the
Strategy Unit Report Waste Not Want Not in 2002, the Government has
implemented several of the identified drivers for achieving its
vision, which includes:
- The establishment of the Waste and Resources Action Programme
(WRAP), to overcome market barriers to re-use and recycling and to
enhance the market for secondary materials;
- Increasing (in 2005/06) the Landfill Tax escalator from £1 per
tonne to £3 per tonne up to a maximum long-term rate of £35 per
tonne, bringing it in line with the rest of Europe;
- A reform of the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme to support
sustainable waste management activities, particularly re-use and
recycling through diversion of £84/92/92 million to be redirected
to a new Sustainable Waste Management Programme in England in
2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06 respectively;
- Introduction of tradable permits for local authorities to
restrict the amount of biodegradable municipal waste landfilled
through the Waste Emissions Trading Act (December 2003).
- Bringing regulatory controls on all landfill sites under an
integrated system of controls, under the Pollution Prevention and
Control Regulations (July 2001).
- Distribution of Government funding to local authorities via the
Waste Minimisation and Recycling Fund, which will see £135m
provided to local authorities (with £90m available in 2004/05 and
£45m in 2005/06i ).
It was estimated in Waste Not Want Not that waste growth could
be slowed from 3% to 2% per annum; recycling would be boosted
raising national rates to 45% by 2015; significant amounts of waste
would be diverted from landfill; and there would be increased
choice from industry, local authorities and households over how
waste is to be managed. The Waste Implementation Programme (WIP)
responds to the package of strategic measures recommended in Waste
Not Want Not in order to assist the UK in meeting the legally
binding targets under Article 5 of the Landfill Directive.
This £174m three-year programme aims to move waste treatment up the
waste hierarchy, above landfill.
Recycling is legislated
Two key pieces of legislation are the Waste Emissions and
Trading (WET) Act 2003 and the Household Waste Recycling (HWR) Act
2003. The WET Act aims to address two major environmental
challenges - climate change and sustainable waste management. This
will therefore assist the UK in delivering on its commitments
for both the Kyoto Protocol and the Landfill Directive. It takes an
innovative approach, using economic instruments to deliver
economically optimal solutions. The WET Act provides the
legislative framework for trading schemes that aim to allow the
required reductions to be made in the most cost effective way,
whether in BMW going to landfill or in emissions of greenhouse
gases to the atmosphere. The HWR Act will require all Waste
Collection Authorities in England to collect at least two
recyclable materials separate from the remainder of the waste by
2010. Both Acts will impact upon how local authorities
deliver their recycling programmes in order to meet the Government
and EU targetsii.
A range of producer responsibility tools have been introduced to
implement various EC Directives, including the EC Directive on
Packaging and Packaging Waste, the Waste Electrical and Electronic
Equipment (WEEE) and End of Life Vehicles (ELV) Directives.
Central to producer responsibility is the encouragement of higher
rates of recycling. Under the Packaging Waste Directive,
producers are set recycling and recovery targets each year in line
with European targets, which require an overall recovery rate of
60% by 2008, 95% of which must be achieved by recycling.
Recycling implementation is increasing
The amount of recycled material collected in England through
kerbside schemes rose from 1.3 million tonnes in 2002/03 to 1.9
million tonnes in 2003/04. Recycling of household waste
increased from 7.5% in 1996/97 to 22.7% in 2004/05.
It is anticipated that kerbside collection costs will increase
significantly as segregation of recyclables at source begins to
take effect. In general the following criteria are suggested for
consideration in approaching the collection of recyclables:
- Promotion of user responsibility through pre-sorting of
- Provision of an operationally effective and efficient
- Provision of flexibility to changes in demand and
- Affordability in terms of collection and processing.
Although local authorities are now bound to collect recyclable
materials separately, studies on household recycling behaviour
indicate that residents feel there is not enough space in which to
store receptacles for recycling, which can result in reduced
effectiveness of recycling schemes. There will therefore need
to be an increasing emphasis on education and awareness
programmes to obtain support and commitment from the householder if
progress toward meeting the challenging targets for recycling is to
be achieved. New approaches to be considered may involve
higher levels of direct marketing using recycling advisors to
provide advice on householders' doorsteps, and helplines. The
ease with which people may be able to store seggregated waste
should also be a consideration when designing new dwellings, in
particular high-density, multi-occupancy buildings.
Defra 1 sets out the following characteristics
of current household waste composition and recycling potential:
- Households in England produce 25 million tonnes of waste every
year, over half of which is garden waste, waste paper and board,
and kitchen waste.
- Household waste consists of: Garden Waste 20%, Scrap
metal/White goods 5%, Wood 5%, Dense plastic 4%, Plastic film 4%,
Textiles 3%, Metal packaging 3%, Nappies 2%, Soil 3%, Paper and
Board 18%, Kitchen Waste 17%, General Household Sweepings 9% and
- Around 20% of food purchased in supermarkets ends up in the
bin, on average £424 of wasted food each year.
- Over 40 per cent of household waste is retail packaging,
totalling 4.5 million tonnes.
Depending on the level of public participation in segregating
recyclable materials at source (e.g. through box schemes), the
total proportion that could be recycled is between 32% of the total
waste weight (assuming 55% public participation in segregation) and
60% (assuming 100% public participation).
If centralised facilities are used to separate just the main
biodegradable waste using a brown bin service (i.e. paper,
cardboard and organics) then the recycling proportion is between
59% (with 55% public participation in other recyclables) and 68%
(with 100% public participation in other recyclables).
The obvious alternative competitor to source separation is using
a recycling bin and a materials recycling facility (MRF). Depending
upon appropriate public participation, levels of comtamination and
facility type, this option can result in poorer quality
biodegradable product resulting from the processing of mixed waste
and higher cross-contamination in dry recyclable materials. However
with appropriate pre-biotreatment segregation, the quality of the
final output from the process can closely approach the one from
separately collected materials.
CIWEM recognises the importance of recycling in enabling the UK
to meet its targets for diversion of BMW under the Landfill
Directive and for local authorities to meet Government targets for
recycling and composting. It also recognises the wider contribution
of recycling to sustainable management of waste.
In this context it supports the efforts of all stakeholders in
the waste industry to promote sustainable management of waste in
accordance with the waste hierarchy of reduce, reuse,
recycle. Whilst recycling is a positive contribution to
sustainable waste management, careful consideration must be given
to the overall energy balance of the process and recycling should
not be undertaken purely for recycling's sake. It is
important that transportation of materials for recycling, for
example, is minimised. It is also important to recognise that
recycling is an 'end of pipe' solution - the most desirable
solution should be minimisation of waste at source by producers and
this should be encouraged accordingly.
Overall the data suggests that recycling and composting of
municipal waste in England increased in 2003/04 by five percentage
points to nearly 23%. However, a high rate of kerbside collection
in England has not yielded similarly high weights of recyclable
materials collected - probably due to low public participation. So
there is much room for improvement of the many poorly-performing
kerbside services, with the use of appropriate incentive and
education schemes which, due to the scale and commonality of the
issue, may best be led by a national campaign.
Above and beyond the installation of recycling collection
arrangements and waste treatment technologies, it is probable that
significant expenditure will be needed (both locally and
nationally) to tackle the social and behavioral issues associated
with increasing recycling levels (particularly in inner
cities). As yet, this is an area of work where limited
research has been conducted.
The long term contracts assigned by local authorities for
recycling and waste operators to provide separate kerbside
collection services depend on household behaviour and result in an
unpredictable tonnage of materials collected. These contracts will
only be renewed and justified if the costs of kerbside recycling
services are able to meet similar and stable recovery targets to
MRFs. In order to improve and maintain high materials recovery
targets in kerbside services, so they are comparable to MRFs, it is
necessary to use various incentive and education schemes targeting
the communities served. As in many other aspects of daily
activities, society in the UK can be effectively educated in modern
waste and resource management, using incentives as one of the
common tools in promotional marketing.
Should these approaches take longer to deliver than anticipated
(i.e. achieving an immediate uplift in recycling rates) further
steps, such as moving to alternate weekly collection arrangements
and the use of direction upon householders, may have to be
considered. The UK Government will face significant fines from the
EU for non-compliance with the Landfill Directive unless
significant progress is made in improving rates of recycling.
With this in mind, the development and administration of high
quality recycling services is likely to prove a cost effective
i) A variation on this approach exists for Northern Ireland
whereby the DOE(NI) provides an annual grant for local authorities
to spend on capital and/or revenue waste management systems and
infrastructure. This is in place of WIP, although this
situation may be changing.
ii) The HWR has not been legislated for in Northern Ireland. The
forthcoming review of the Northern Ireland Waste Strategy, due to
start in September, may consider this matter further.
1. Defra, New Figures Reveal Surge in Recycling - News
Release 14 September 2005
Note: CIWEM Policy Position Statements (PPS) represents the
Institution's views on issues at a particular point in time.
It is accepted that situations change as research provides new
evidence. It should be understood, therefore, that CIWEM
PPS's are under constant review, that previously held views may
alter and lead to revised PPS's.