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UK in danger of missing EU household recycling target

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The UK achieved a recycling rate of 45.7% for waste from households (WfH) in 2017, according to figures published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The figure trails behind the EU’s target to recycle at least 50% of WfH by 2020, although it is an improvement on the 45.2% recorded in 2016.

While all UK countries reported improved WfH recycling rates in 2017, Wales remains the only country exceeding the EU target with WfH rates of 57.6%. Nevertheless, the UK remains on track to meet the EU’s other waste target on biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) sent to landfill (35% below 1995 baseline by 2020).

Defra’s figures also document a dramatic uptake in energy from waste (EfW) disposal methods. Energy recovery was used to treat 7.3m tonnes of waste in 2016 compared to 1.9m tonnes in 2014, a jump of over 270%. The amount of waste sent to landfill meanwhile rose 8.5% to 52.3m tonnes over the same period.

Shortly after the publication of the figures, the government launched a series of consultations to overhaul the waste system, cut plastic pollution and move towards a more circular economy. The proposals would see packaging producers pay the full cost of dealing with their waste, more consistent household recycling and a deposit return scheme for cans and bottles. The changes are set to form a key part of the government’s pending Environment Bill, due to be introduced in the second session of parliament.

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