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UK ‘not on track’ to recycle 50% of household waste by 2020

Brexit is due on March 29, and it is unclear whether the EU target will continue to apply during the transition period.

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The UK is not on track to meet EU targets to recycle half of household rubbish by 2020, the latest Government data suggests.

Figures for 2017 show 45.7% of household waste in the UK was recycled, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

Under the Waste Framework Directive, members of the EU must meet a target to recycle 50% of household waste by 2020.

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The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, but Defra said the 2020 target will continue to apply.

The figures show the percentage of household waste recycled increased 1.1 percentage points between 2015 and 2017.

At this rate, it would take almost four years to reach the EU target of 50%.

Provisional figures also showed that recycling of packaging waste dropped 1.2 percentage points since the previous year.

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Some 70.2% of UK packaging waste was either recycled or recovered in 2017, compared with 71.4% the previous year.

Even with this drop, the UK is comfortably exceeding the EU target to recover at least 60% of packaging waste.

One of the biggest increases has been in the recycling of plastic, which reflects increasing public awareness of its impact on the environment.

(PA Graphics)

The amount of plastic being recycled rose more than 8 percentage points in four years, with 46.2% being recycled or recovered in 2017.

A Defra spokeswoman said: “While we have made progress, we recognise rates have plateaued in recent years.

“That’s why through our landmark resources and waste strategy we will overhaul the waste system so we can go further and faster.

“We will introduce a consistent set of recyclable materials collected from all households in England, including plans for weekly collections of food waste, as well as consistent labelling on packaging to drive up recycling rates.”

Environment spokesman for the Local Government Association, Martin Tett, said councils were “playing their part” but more must be done to reach the targets.

He said: “For this to happen, businesses and manufacturers need to build waste reduction and the reuse of packaging into their operations, and we were pleased to see these measures included in the recent waste and resources strategy.

“With councils in England facing an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025, it is also vital that the spending review fully funds the local services our communities rely on, like waste and recycling.”

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