Figures reveal huge disparity in council recycling rates

Figures released by Defra paint an uneven picture of England’s recycling rates across different local authorities.

London borough Newham earns the dubious accolade of the worst area for recycling in England, with a rate of just 14%. Residents of the East Riding of Yorkshire, however, came out on top, with 64% of their household waste being recycled.

The overall average recycling rate in England is 45.2%, which is close to the EU’s 50% target for 2020, yet the rate for England has remained sluggish for several years, and it looks extremely unlikely that England will now meet the 50% goal.

Recycling rates by region:

  • London: highest – Bexley LB (52%), lowest – Newham LB (14%)
  • North East: highest – Darlington Borough Council (41%), lowest – Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (25%)
  • West Midlands: highest – Stratford-on-Avon District Council (60%), lowest – Birmingham City Council (21%)
  • South West: highest – Stroud District Council (61%), lowest – Council of the Isles of Scilly (21%)
  • Yorkshire and the Humber: highest – East Riding of Yorkshire Council (64%), lowest – Kirklees MBC (27%)
  • East Midlands: highest – South Northamptonshire Distrct Council (60%), lowest – Bassetlaw District Council (25%)
  • North West: highest – Trafford MBC (59%), lowest – Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council (20%)
  • South East: highest – South Oxfordshire Distrct Council (63%), lowest – Gosport Borough Council (23%)
  • Eastern: highest – Rochford Distrct Council (63%), lowest – Tendring District Council (27%)

Mark Hall, communications director of, said of the figures: It’s clear that there is still a great divide between areas where recycling levels are high, and those which fall short of the mark. While some of this can be attributed to the types of housing which are common in those areas, as the report notes, it is also important to note that recycling schemes and how they are marketed by the local authority have an impact on the mindset of local residents.

‘We would love to see all local authorities reporting the kind of recycling rates seen in the leading areas – and many of them are a long way off. Concerted efforts by the local authorities to raise awareness are important, as well as ensuring that there is the capacity to deal with recycled materials.

‘The provisions made for recycling varies from one local authority to the next – for example, Leeds City Council lacks the funds to provide for kerbside glass recycling, which could be off-putting for busy residents who would need to schedule a trip to the local recycling bank, as well as store glass waste in the meantime.’

Several local authorities are now cutting back on the recycling services they provide to residents in the face of government cuts.

Last month, Buckinghamshire County Council agreed to controversial changes in its household recycling centre service including charging for the disposal of ‘non-household’ waste.

The council recognised concerns that changes to its household recycling centre service might lead to a rise in fly-tipping, which has become a growing problem in cities across the country in recent years.

Research from the Furniture Recycling Group released last month revealed that since 2013, Liverpool was the worst city for fly-tipping incidents per person, with 74,909 total incidents reported.


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