Archived press release
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Friends of the Earth campaigners across the country will send an SOS message to local authorities, urging them to improve recycling facilities this weekend [1] - but the environmental campaign group is warning that recycling targets cannot be met without more central government funding.

Just one in four households in England, Wales and Northern Ireland currently receives a "best practice" recycling service [2], with national recycling levels still lingering at 14.5 per cent - a long way short of the Government's target of 25 per cent by 2005.

Friends of the Earth campaigners in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will send messages to their local authorities in recyclable plastic bottles on World Environment Day (Saturday 5th June) demanding urgent improvement to tackle the growing waste problem.

But Friends of the Earth is also urging the Chancellor to do more to boost recycling by providing more funding direct to local authorities from landfill tax revenues and the reform of the landfill tax credit scheme. Fewer than half of the English applicant authorities to the 2002 Waste Minimisation and Recycling Fund received funding, with 215 schemes refused (Wales and Northern Ireland have separate funding arrangements).

Research shows that best practice doorstep recycling and compost collection schemes cost an average of £17 per household a year to run [3] but Friends of the Earth found some councils currently spend just £1.15 per household [4].

Friends of the Earth figures reveal that an increase of £200 million a year would ensure a decent recycling and compost service for every household. Nine out of ten people say they would recycle more waste if it was made easier [5].

Evidence shows that local authorities receiving government grants have been able to improve the recycling service they offer, often dramatically. For example:
  • Lichfield District Council was granted £410,000 in 2002 to provide a dry recyclables collection to difficult types of housing that are currently excluded. The council increased their recycling from 33% to 43% during 2002-3. This is one of the highest recycling rates in the country.

  • Bath and North East Somerset received £755,000 in 2002 for their green waste and cardboard collection. The council has developed innovative recycling options for flats where it is difficult to operate the usual green box collection scheme. The recycling rate has increased from 17% to 26% in the last 5 years.

  • Dacorum Borough Council received more than £900,000 for a green waste and dry recyclable collection in 2002. It has employed two waste inspectors who give face to face recycling advice to residents. The council operates a good practice alternate weekly refuse and organic waste/cardboard collection, with dry recyclables picked up weekly. The council recycled 13% in 2002-3.

  • Blaenau Gwent Council received £759,000 from the National Assembly for Wales between 2001 and 2004. A new 5 material recycling service now covers 98% of households and the council calculates that the recycling rate has risen so far from 4% to 12%.

Friends of the Earth's recycling campaigner Georgina Bloomfield said:

"Friends of the Earth is challenging both national and local government on World Environment Day to prove they mean business on recycling. People are willing to recycle, provided they have adequate facilities. The best way to reach the recycling levels obtained by many of our European neighbours is to introduce doorstep recycling. To provide the best schemes, local authorities need adequate funding from the Government. The Chancellor must commit money from the landfill tax to support the best in local recycling."


[1] Local actions will be taking place in the following 61 locations:

East of England

  • Saffron Walden
  • Welwyn Hatfield
  • Norwich
East Midlands
  • Chesterfield & North Derbyshire
  • Nottingham
  • Rutland
  • Hackney & Tower Hamlets
  • Harrow
  • Kensington, Chelsea & Westminster
  • Kingston
  • Tottenham & Wood Green
  • Merton
  • Barnet
  • Hammersmith & Fulham
  • Bromley
  • Richmond & Twickenham
North East
  • Tyne Bridge
  • North Tyneside
North West
  • Chester & District
  • Stafford
  • Manchester
  • South Lakeland
  • Bolton
  • Hyndburn & RibbleValley
  • West Cumbria & North Lakes
  • South Cheshire
Northern Ireland
  • Larne & District
  • Bannside
South East
  • Blackwater Valley
  • Elmbridge
  • Portsmouth
  • Canterbury
  • Southampton
  • Chinnor & Thame
  • Deal, Dover & Sandwich
  • Reading
  • Brighton & Hove and Mid Sussex
  • South Bedfordshire
  • New Forest
  • Gosport & Fareham
South West
  • Camel Area
  • East Dorset
  • Bath
  • Cheltenham
  • South Gloucestershire
West Midlands
  • Birmingham
  • Nuneaton & District
  • Coventry
  • Wyre Forest
  • Wolverhampton
  • Walsall
  • Telford
  • Oswestry & District
Yorkshire & the Humber
  • Leeds
  • York & Ryedale
  • Sheffield
  • Cardiff
  • Mon A Gwynedd
  • Chepstow

[2] See
A "best practice" scheme is defined as one collecting five or more materials from every household.

[3] The calculation was based on research by Ecotec research and Consulting which found that the average net cost of providing a doorstep collection service for dry recyclables - paper, plastics, cans, etc - is £9 per household per year. The average net cost of providing a doorstep collection service for compostable materials is £8 per household per year.

[4] In England, 74 local authorities (21%) answered the question about the costs of doorstep recycling schemes in Friends of the Earth's survey. Costs appeared to range from £1.15 to £22.86, with an average cost of £11.01. However, the services also range widely, from a monthly paper collection to a weekly collection of more than 5 dry and organic recyclables. Note: it is extremely difficult to obtain accurate costs for recycling collections from local authorities. Often, the cost is not worked out separately from the refuse collection. Sometimes the cost is held to be commercially sensitive information.

[5] Environment Agency press release, 23 May 2002.

Waste facts and figures
  • Around 80 per cent of household waste could be either recycled or composted, dramatically reducing the need for landfill.
  • The average household produces around a tonne of waste each year.
  • The amount of waste produced in the UK is rising by over three per cent per annum.

In April this year, the Environment Agency warned that space for burying rubbish in the South East could run out within seven years. Northern Ireland has already exported some of its household waste to Scotland for landfill.

Incineration is deeply unpopular. Community groups around the country have opposed incineration proposals because of concerns the environmental impact and risk to health. Once built, incinerators need more and more waste, which could otherwise be recycled, to make them economically viable.

By 2020 the amount of UK municipal waste is set to double (Government Strategy Unit).

The UK uses over 6 billion glass containers each year, amounting to over 2 million tonnes. Less than quarter (22 per cent) were recycled in 1998. The European average is 50 per cent, with some countries recycling 80 per cent. (British Glass). Up to 90 per cent of new glass could be made from reclaimed scrap glass. (British Glass).

Recycling aluminium can bring energy savings of up to 95% and produce 95 % less greenhouse gas emissions than when it is produced from raw materials. (Alupro). Around 20,000 tonnes of aluminium foil packaging (worth £8 million) is wasted each year. Only 3,000 tonnes is recycled.

Packaging is typically 25-35 per cent (by weight) of dustbin waste.

Plastic bags sent to landfill take around 500 years to decay. The UK uses 500 million of these each week. A tax on plastic bags in Ireland has resulted in a 90% reduction in their consumption. More than 9 million euros (£5.73 million) was raised during the first four months of the scheme. The money will be used to fund new waste management and other environmental initiatives. The ban was introduced in March this year. Shoppers are now charged about 10p for each bag they take from supermarkets and other shopping outlets. Before the legislation was enacted, an estimated 1.2 billion bags were handed out to Irish shoppers free of charge each year.

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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust