Recycling league tables – who’s great and who’s …err… rubbish?

The latest league table of local authority recycling has been published, and highlights which councils are the heroes and which are the bad boys when it comes to handling waste.

Once again, it’s Ashford in Kent that comes the very bottom of the pile, with DEFRA figures showing that they only recycle a paltry 12% of its household waste in 2012/13, and has no green recycling scheme. In their defence, the council recently announced that they’re fully aware of their position as the worst recyclers in England, and have pledged to triple their recycling rates in the coming years. Let’s hope that the 2013/14 figures bear this out – they already claim to have reached 50% this year, and that’s a truly heroic effort.

Rochford District Council in Essex, taking in the town of Rayleigh emerges at the champions at recycling, with an impressive rate of 67% of the refuse generated by its 83,000 residents being recycled. Although a relatively small local authority, these are rates that are impressively above average.

Last year’s top-performing authority – Vale of White Horse in what is mostly rural Oxfordshire – came third, along with their near-neighbours South Oxfordshire – taking in Henley-on-Thames – in runner’s-up position.

In all, the DEFRA figures show that the average recycling rate for the entire country is 43.2 per cent, with 73 of England’s authorities managing to recycle more than half of refuse collected. The LocalGov news portal notes that refuse burned for energy recovery has doubled in the last ten years, up to 5.5m tons. We fully expect this figure to double again in the next few years as this means of disposing of previously landfilled waste continues to come into vogue.

Around England and Wales, the league tables were met with either triumph or despair by councils. The Exeter Express and Star newspaper reports that the city came bottom in the league table for authorities in Devon, at 35%. However, Devon as a whole recycles at 55% so it’s not all bad news, with the paper offering local schemes to help out, such as a clothes swap scheme and junk mail blocking.

There’s chest-thumping in Redditch as the council there was pulled up for its lack of green waste collections as one of the reasons their recycling rate was so low. The councillor in charge of the green portfolio came up with an unusual and possibly valid excuse for this – the amount of green waste they’re likely to collect is so low that it would never offset the CO2 emissions from the lorries sent out to do the job.

Now the figures are in the public sphere they’ll serve as encouragement for councils to do better. There are hundreds of authorities recycling less than 50% of refuse, and this simply has to rise.

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