Although the South East is home to some of the top-performing councils for recycling, Portsmouth is currently the third worst performing in the region, according to a new recycling rate map based on data from DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).
The South East region has the highest number of top performing councils for recycling in England, including South Oxfordshire, which has the 3rd highest recycling rate in England at 63%.
While well over a third of councils in the region (27 out of 66, 40%) are exceeding the current UK target of 50% for recycling rates, 39 councils are failing to hit their target, including Portsmouth and Gosport.
Gosport is the worst performing in the region with a rate of 23%, and is only 9 places away from being the worst local authority for recycling in England. Next in the region is Slough at 23.9%, followed by Portsmouth, with a recycling rate of 24.8%, less than half the national target.
You can see the results across England in the interactive map below, which allows you to zoom in on each area for more information.
Chris Vella-Bone from InSinkErator – a waste disposal company that produced the map – said, ‘The recycling data from DEFRA is a great opportunity to make a real change for the future of the planet. We believe everyone should be aware of the impact that all kinds of waste can have on our environment.’
So why are recycling rates so variable across the country?
Each local authority has a different budget and system for recycling, which makes for a patchwork of approaches across the country, including different colours for recycling bins and varying arrangements for what can be recycled in each area.
In addition, other factors can affect recycling rates, including lower rates in areas with transient populations, where occupants may not remain in a property long enough to understand a complicated recycling system. Some areas of the UK have higher rates of waste because they generate large amounts of garden refuse, which significantly increase the overall waste levels.
Food waste is also a key issue for the UK, with reports that approximately a third of all food produced in the UK is wasted and ‘[some] seven million tonnes of that waste [is]…created by households’. Although levels of food waste being composted are increasing, a significant amount is still being thrown away. Despite this, food waste remains a small proportion of waste collected in the UK, at just 2%.
Collected garden waste accounts for 17% of the total recycling, 26% is ‘dry’ recycling such as card or plastic, and 55% is residual waste from household rubbish that is not recycled – your black bin bags.
The government set out 5 strategic principles in ‘Our Waste, Our Resources: A Strategy for England’ to ensure the national target of 50% recycling is met, and to bring consistency to the way UK households recycle their waste. These include: providing incentives to recycle, improving waste prevention and management measures, and ensuring the ‘polluter pays’, placing the responsibility on manufacturers to reduce waste.
In Portsmouth, Cabinet Member for the new directorate of Environment & Climate Change, Cllr Dave Ashmore has pledged to improve recycling systems and rates in Portsmouth, including introducing a new scheme to collect food waste earlier this year, and carton recycling banks at Asda in Fratton, and Morrisons in Anchorage Park.
The Council also introduced a new wheelie bin scheme in 50,000 households across Portsmouth in 2018, with early reports from the local authority’s Flagship Magazine reporting recycling rates ‘increased by 5% and the amount of rubbish being collected fell by up to 20%’ in trial areas of the scheme.
Speaking to Shaping Portsmouth in March 2019, Cllr Ashmore said, ‘It is important that we do whatever we can to reduce waste and recycle more.”